Duncan lost one of its most beloved citizens Oct. 2.
Richard Billingsley, 75, died Oct. 2 at Tucson Medical Center of COVID-19, said his brother Charles.
Richard was the middle of five sons born to Ben and Ruth Billingsley and the grandson of Benjamin Billingsley, who opened Duncan’s first general store in 1895.
Charles said their father raised all of them around the underground mines in the area and Richard, although an electrician by trade, could survey, assay and engineer all sorts of underground mining equipment.
He helped anybody who needed help in any way, Charles said.
Up until he became ill, his brother was working to restore the historic Billingsley House and working on various other projects in and around Duncan. According to the Duncan Valley Rural Fire District, over the years Richard held the positions of firefighter, fleet mechanic, facilities maintenance, radio communications specialist and large volume water tender operator and engineer.
“I loved being around him and working with him because I always learned something from him,” Charles said. “He was so smart and yet he could explain it to anybody.”
Richard Lunt considered Billingsley a good friend and remembers the days when he’d come help out at the family dairy farm.
“He was one of those guys who could fix anything and figure anything out,” Lunt said. “Sometimes we’d have refrigeration problems and he’d come in and work all night getting things going. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”
His friend didn’t just help him out, either, Lunt said. He could be counted on by many a widow or anyone else in need.
“He did it out of kindness and love of people,” Lunt said. “He was one in a million. This community will greatly miss him.”
Billingsley was also a great conversationalist on just about any topic and he had strong opinions, Lunt said.
“I sure loved him and I liked to argue with him,” Lunt said. “He was knowledgeable on a lot of things.”
Deborah Mendelsohn, who met Billingsley in 2006, said he was a dear friend who will be greatly missed.
“He was one of the most ingenious people I’ve ever known. He was just a brilliant problem solver and a pleasure to be around,” Mendelsohn said.
He would often give mine tours and always had great stories to share, she said.
“His father taught him everything he knew,” Mendelsohn said. “He knew how to look for veins of silver and copper, never with any great success, but always with great fun.”
Billingsley is also known for being the founder of Radio Free Duncan, a small radio station that plays country music around the clock from his vast collection of records and Gospel music on Sundays.
Charles Billingsley said they hope to keep the radio station running and fully intend to finish the restoration of the Billingsley House, which was built by their grandfather in the late 1890s and donated to the Duncan P.R.I.D.E Society several years ago.
Richard Billingsley was preceded in death by his daughter, Destany Lynn Billingsley, and is survived by his daughter, Saundra Billingsley and stepdaughters Michele Herod and Melodie Duffey O’Byrne.