Dr. Thaine Edward Billingsley, 88, died Friday, February 7, 2014 at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, surrounded by loved ones. His death was the result of complications from a fall suffered the day before.
Formerly a resident of Monterey, Dr. Billingsley had been living at Sunnyside Retirement Community in Harrisonburg for the past decade with his wife of 65 years, Anita (Moore) Billingsley, and oldest son, Gary. Until the time of his move to Sunnyside, Dr. Billingsley practiced medicine, serving as Highland County’s only physician for most of his career. A general practitioner, he did everything from delivering babies to treating terminal illnesses, often making house calls. He was the prototypical “country doctor” who was known for whistling while he worked.
A native of Marysville, Kansas, Dr. Billingsley was born June 5, 1925, the only child of the late Leslie Kirk and Belmont Hazel “Monty” (Collins) Billingsley. After graduating from high school in 1943, he joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps and became a lab technician, spending time in New Guinea, Japan, and the Philippines. Following WWII, he met Anita on a Methodist mission trip while earning his undergraduate degree from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. In 1953, he earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas. After medical school, through the Virginia Council of Health and Medical Care, Dr. Billingsley sought out an area in the country in need of a physician. He and his family decided on Highland County, and with generous support from the Stonewall Ruritan Club, they moved to the county in 1954.
Dr. B, as he was known by many in the county, made countless contributions – a humble man, he didn’t just preach his strong values, he practiced them every day. He was active in a number of community organizations, including the Stonewall Ruritan Club, Monterey United Methodist Church, and the Highland County Chamber of Commerce. It was through his involvement with the Chamber that he was instrumental in starting the Highland County Maple Festival. In Harrisonburg, Dr. Billingsley was a member of Otterbein United Methodist Church.
An avid reader and history buff, Dr. Billingsley enjoyed music, rummy games with Gary, travel, outdoor activities, and time spent with family.
In addition to his wife and son, Gary, survivors include: son, Robert and spouse, Anna of Fredericksburg; daughters, Mary Anita of Winston Salem, N.C., and Sarah Lyn and spouse, Nola of Union City, Calif.; and son, Kirk and spouse, Kim of Monterey. He was predeceased by his daughter, Carol Elaine. Dr. Billingsley also left behind six granddaughters: Carol Billingsley, Leslie Billingsley, Hayley Billingsley, Julia Billingsley, Rosemarie Torres and Priscilla Torres; and three great-grandchildren.
At the time of Dr. Billingsley’s retirement, several hundred people attended a reception in his honor. The Recorder lauded him for “a legacy of hope and healing.” An editorial stated: “Dr. B leaves behind a community grateful for his service, his friendship and his inspiration, which allowed many of us to face our own hardships more bravely. The heart of this fine country doctor remained constant….The whistling doctor will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.”
A memorial service will be held at the Monterey United Methodist Church on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm with the Rev. James Tongue, Rev. Erin Geoffrion and Rev. Ed Pruitt officiating. A reception will follow at the church. An inurnment service will be private.
Memorial contributions may be made to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY, 10087.