LITTLE DEER ISLE – Walter Daniel Billings Jr., a longtime resident of Little Deer Isle, passed away at the age of 93 on Thursday, October 10, 2013, in Deer Isle, Maine. Born in Little Deer Isle, Maine, Walt was the fourth son of Walter Billings Sr., and Georgia Saunders Billings.
He grew up working on the water, most notably on the sailing vessel Mercantile, which can still be seen plying the waters of Penobscot Bay nearly 100 years after she was launched. The Mercantile, which was built by his father and uncles on the family shore property in Little Deer Isle, delivered pulpwood from the surroundings islands to Brewer. He graduated from Deer Isle High School in 1939, winning the prestigious Balfour Medal for being the most versatile student, encompassing academics, athletics, and citizenship. After graduation, he worked at the Bullard Machine Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the summer time while scallop fishing the remainder of the year. When war came along, Walt and all of his brothers enlisted in the Armed Services. He chose to join the U.S. Army Air Corps. even though he was extremely competent on the water. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant in the 8th Air Force, 81st Fighter Squadron, where he served as a ground crew chief in charge of P-47 fighter aircraft. He returned to Little Deer Isle unharmed after the war, like the rest of his brothers, except his best friend “Hutch” who was killed in action while serving in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. Post war, Walt did what he knew best, following the call of the sea and becoming a yacht captain of highest regard. For many years he was the captain for Briggs Cunningham and Lucie Cunningham Warren of Green’s Farms, Connecticut, operating their yachts from the Bahamas to Newport, Rhode Island, but mostly in and around Long Island Sound. Walt was especially fond of his time spent aboard the sailing vessel Brilliant, which is now berthed in Mystic, Connecticut. He was a vital person at the Pequot Yacht Club in Southport, Connecticut, for many years, where his common sense and ingenuity were always relied upon. Walt was a member and ordained Elder for the Community of Christ, where he served and ministered until his last day. So strong were his religious convictions that ice had to be cut in order for him to be baptized on the family shore in January of 1942. He lived his life in Little Deer Isle, Maine, and Fairfield, Connecticut, where he was highly respected for his professionalism and expertise around the water as well as for his spirituality in his church community.
Predeceased by his brothers, Kenneth, Daniel, Winslow, Owen, and Amos; sister, Nancy; grandson, Matthew; and brother-in-law, Harry Arenburg. Walt is survived by his wife of 66 years, Evelyn Lorraine Billings, at home in Little Deer Isle; daughter, Mary and Clyde McVicar of Canon City, Colorado; son, Edward and Diane Billings of Monroe, Connecticut; and son, Walter III and Linda Billings of Bel Air, Maryland. Also surviving are grandchildren, Holly, Robert, Lorraine, Katelyn, Jonathan, Aubrey, Ashley and Daniel; great-grandchildren, Brandon and Autumn; and many beloved nieces and nephews. He will be greatly missed by all of his friends and family and remembered for his excellence on the water, love of life, inspiration, and guidance to all. Walter’s family wishes to extend their deepest gratitude to the entire staff at the Island Nursing Home for all of their love, care, and concern. His family also wishes to thank Dr. Zelnick, Helen Dueshel, and the entire staff at the Island Medical Center for their direction and special attention. The Billings family expresses special gratitude to Margaret, Larry, and the congregation of St. Brendan’s for the use of their church, because of its significance in their history.
Visiting hours will be held TODAY from 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM, Monday, October 14, 2013, at the Stonington chapel of Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes. A funeral will begin at 10:00 AM, Tuesday, October 15, 2013, at St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, 639 North Deer Isle Road, Deer Isle, Maine 04627. A private committal will take place at Grays Hill Cemetery, Little Deer Isle. Remembrance donations in the name of Walter D. Billings Jr. may be made to: Island Nursing Home, Maine 587 North Deer Isle Road, Deer Isle, Maine 04627 or for the preservation of the yacht Brilliant may be offered to the Mystic Seaport Museum, Post Office Box 6000, Mystic, Connecticut 06355-0990. A memorial will be planned in the Fairfield County, Connecticut, area at a location and time to be determined. Arrangements by Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes, Stonington.