Elliot Allen Billings
November 22, 1912 – November 7, 2011
Falmouth resident Elliot A. Billings died at Falmouth Hospital on Monday, November 7, two weeks shy of his 99th birthday.
Elliot was born November 22, 1912 in Portland, ME, the eldest of four sons of Frank S. and Marion A. (nee Harrington) Billings. He attended public schools in Portland and summered with his family on Cape Elizabeth/South Portland near Willard Beach. There he had a formative experience (ca. 1922) when he was given a brief ride in an amphibious airplane in exchange for bailing out water that had seeped into the hull of said seaplane. A few years later, after attending a slide lecture by Admiral Robert E. Peary, he built a kayak from scratch. These two adventures planted the seeds for what became a life-long affection for boating, sailing, and aviation.
Billings was graduated from Deering High School in Portland, Norwich University, Northfield, VT, and the U.S. Naval Flight School at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL. His education at Norwich included training as a member of the U.S. Army Horse Cavalry, in which he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant upon his graduation in 1934. He resigned this commission when he enlisted in Officer Flight Training in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve until his release in 1954 with the rank of Captain.
While stationed in Quantico, VA, he was introduced to Priscilla Robb of Washington, D.C. and Falmouth, MA. They married in 1937 after Elliot had begun his career (1936-1972) in commercial aviation for PAN AM. Considered a “pioneer pilot,” he opened various routes, flying to the Caribbean and Latin America out of Dinner Key/Miami, FL, across the Pacific Ocean out of Oakland, CA, and to Africa & Europe from Long Island, NY. He returned to Miami in 1941, and during the Second World War, flew with the Air Transport Command out of Miami across the Atlantic as far as Karachi. He wrote that “Since PAN AM was the only American outfit flying overseas prior to WWII, those who were on the Atlantic were taken over by the Air Force/ATC, and those on the Pacific were taken over by the USN/ATC.”
Elliot’s log books record some 30,000 hours of flight, 12 lengthy trips hopping across the Pacific, 668 flights across the North and South Atlantic (initially in huge seaplanes—the Sikorsky S-40, Martin M130, Boeing 314 “Clippers,” then B-24s, DC-4s, and jets--DC-8s and B-707s and finally the Boeing 747). On one flight from San Juan, PR to New York, Captain Billings even had to deliver a baby.
The parents of six children, Elliot and Priscilla divided each year between Coral Gables, FL and Cape Cod until they settled year-round in Falmouth in 1960. Upon his mandated retirement at 60, Elliot on a trip to Japan acquired the first of a succession of motorcycles, which he rode around Falmouth and beyond, even after he was “pinched” in his eighties for speeding on the mid-Cape highway. He also had great fondness for dogs, horses, bicycles, kayaks, sailing craft, and power boats, and he was a champion marksman. Many testify to his special love of children and his delight in storytelling, joking, and various antics; others relate instances of quiet, generous, and practical support in response to personal need or grief.
Billings served as a founding vestry member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Coral Gables and was formerly a Trustee of Norwich University. In Florida he was an active, racing member of the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club and a founding/charter member of the Coral Reef Yacht Club. In Falmouth he was an active member of the Quissett Yacht Club, where he served as Commodore from 1973 to 1975, and the Falmouth Waterways Committee. For years he chaired the Annual Round-the-Bay Race committee.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 74 years, Priscilla, sons Charles (Sharon), Stephen (Barbara), George, John (Bridget), daughter Cynthia Atwood (Wallace), daughter-in-law Ruth, 10 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son Roger and his granddaughter Laura.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Quissett Harbor House Land Trust, P.O. Box 197, Falmouth, MA 02541, The PANAM Pilots’ Retirement Foundation, Inc., 13615 South Dixie Hwy, Suite 114 - #518, Miami, FL 33176-7252, or Norwich University/Memorial Gifts, 158 Harmon Drive, Northfield, VT 05663.
A Memorial Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Elliot A. Billings is being planned for next summer.
Arrangements under the direction of Nickerson-Bourne Funeral Home, Bourne, MA.
Elliot Allen Billings
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November 28, 2011
"That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long."
Sonnet #73 by William Shakespeare
This poem came into my mind the day you left us - I had planned to read it to you that evening but never had the chance. God bless you, Pop. I will forever cherish our last week together - the conversations, stories, and companionship. I love you.
November 16, 2011
Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Barry and Cheryl
November 15, 2011
Our sincere condolences. Hopefully the many wonderful memories of Uncle Elliot will ease the pain of his passing.
Robert and Barb Billings
November 13, 2011
These last few days we have all shared our own memories of Mr. Billings. He was a hero to my children and we all feel so fortunate to have known him. Our thoughts are with the Billings family.
Sheila and Mark Gordon, Scottie, Bryan and Ian.
November 13, 2011
My deepest condolences to Mrs. Elliot Billings, Ruth Billings, George and family for the loss of this remarkable man.
Douglas B. Willingham
November 12, 2011
Dear Mrs. Billings, John, Bridget, Rachel, Phoebe, and the rest of the Billings family,
We are sad to read of Mr. Billings, your dad and grandfather, having passed away just short of the beginning of his 100th year of life. He was at all times interesting, humorous, generous, and hospital to us Cape Cod transplants or Wash a Shore Hennigans (Matt, Robbi, Jeul, (Jason), Marta & Peter). What a precious gift to have enjoyed him in your lives all these years! "For He does not willingly bring affliction of grief to the children of men".Lamentations 3:33
Matt and Robbi
November 11, 2011
Thoughts and prayers for George and his family from Ray Rhinehart and Walter Smalling of Washington
The Staff of Nickerson-Bourne Funeral Home
November 9, 2011
We wish to extend our deepest sympathies at this difficult time.