|I have never thought of Ras Bilbrey without
images of West Paris in the 40's, entering my mind. For years he lived on one corner of
Depot street in the Majestic Hotel, owned by his parents, and me at the other end of the
same block. There are only a couple of friends that I knew before Ras. Although older and
actually my sister Peggy's classmate, he was special to both of us. When he moved back to
Paris I had always made his favorite watering hole my coffee stop each morning when I was
Another image that pops in my mind; Ras with a football running in the open at Barton field or up and down the court in the old City Auditorium. I always envied his speed and quickness, probably because I was slow as molasses. And of course it is impossible to forget his infectious smile.
In 1953 I was in the base gymnasium, Clark Air Force Base, Philippine Islands. Clark was to play the naval station located about 80 miles away. Someone walked up behind me and said, "What do you think you're doing." I turned around prepared to deliver a smart reply and there stood a grinning Ras. He was on the naval basketball team that was playing our base team. Small world indeed.
In May of this year I was able to spend more time than usual with Ras. In addition to coffee each morning, he provided a couple of his Towers for me to scan for the Grove site. He came over and we told war stories into the night. In addition we went out to dinner one night. I called him only about two weeks ago. As usual it was a two hour conversation. I am sure it would have been a bore to anyone else listening, but for us it was our way to 'go back home again.' And yes, we could go back.
Many who knew Ras also knew he had experienced health problems in the past several years. When folks asked Ras if he had come back to Paris to live, his favorite reply was, "No, I have come back to die."
Well... old friend, it was much too soon. In the words of Ted Jenkins when he informed me of his death, "Another of the good ones have gone."
November 2, 2002
RAS OBITUARY RAS MADE A DIFFERENCE RAS REMEMBERED
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