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Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

A life well-lived

February 14, 2003

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Lawrence has lost a community leader, a philanthropist and a friend.

Few, if any, people have had a greater impact on Lawrence in the past 50 years than Bob Billings.

He probably was most widely known as the president of Alvamar Inc. who had a vision that led to the development of more than 3,000 acres in west Lawrence. But Billings' investment in Lawrence went far beyond the financial resources he put into Alvamar.

Billings had a unique talent for making things happen -- most often for someone else. He worked quietly and in the background, lending a helping hand, listening to a friend, making a donation. Almost every worthwhile project in Lawrence, at some time, benefited from Bob Billings' generosity.

He was a standout student and athlete at Russell High School before coming to Kansas University, where he received top honors in both athletics and academics. He was a guard on the basketball team and a Phi Beta Kappa member, but he still had time to serve as president of his fraternity and student body president.

When he was only 22, he became director of KU's Office of Student Financial Aid. During his 10 years in that job, he began to focus on the Alvamar development that would be a lifelong passion. The development was a profitable venture for Billings, but it also was an opportunity to create a beautiful asset for Lawrence. He was driven by a desire to do what was good for Lawrence.

That's the kind of guy he was. Whether he was working with KU, the business community, the United Way or the children he invited to an annual fishing tournament, he wanted to make everyone a winner. He was known among his friends for being willing to give the precious gift of time. Virtually every resident of Lawrence was touched somehow by Billings' philanthropy. But he also is remembered by hundreds of people from all walks of life for his personal, individual acts of kindness and support.

His friends remember Billings as the eternal optimist who saw the world as a place that was full of good people and wonderful opportunities. Every day was a good day; it was all a matter of how you used it.

Billings made maximum use of his days in Lawrence. Whether it was a big job or a small job, Billings was willing to take it on and usually give the credit to someone else. Not surprisingly, his unassuming and generous nature endeared him to many residents, who will miss his vision, his leadership, his humor and his friendship.

Billings made a lasting mark on Lawrence -- and it won't be the same without him.

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