JAY POPE BILLS, 90, passed away peacefully with his wife and children by his side on Friday, April 6, 2018 in the Nell J. Redfield Memorial Hospital in Malad City, Idaho.
Jay was born in Blackfoot, Idaho to Oren Eugene Bills and Charlotte Leone Pope on March 30, 1928. The family moved to Logan, Utah, when Jay was nine years old; the family owned a grocery store, where all the children learned to work hard. In his teens, instead of buying a car, he spent money on flying lessons and earned his pilot’s license at the age of sixteen. He had enough credits to graduate from Logan High School, but he wanted to join the Navy (his best friend was also in the Navy), and his mother signed off to let him go. He spent two years as an AETM2 at the US Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland. Because he did not serve overseas for the Navy, he did not feel he deserved to use the GI Bill.
He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years in the Netherlands. He attended USU for two years before running out of funds. He joined Philco Corp. and worked one year as a civilian tech rep. at Clark Field Air Force Base in the Philippine Islands [hot & humid]. Along with work, he enjoyed flying [as a passenger] to Tokyo, Japan and various islands in Indonesia, and he built/flew/crashed large-model airplanes with engines. He transferred this love of flying to his sons.
He graduated with two degrees from Utah State University, in Tool Engineering & Electrical Engineering. He met Shirley Norma South at the Logan LDS Institute, and they were married for Time & All Eternity in the Logan LDS Temple June 8, 1956. Their honeymoon was spent driving to Pittsburgh, PA to live while visiting church locations such as Nauvoo, IL and Carthage Jail. Together, they always attended and enjoyed church, and they spent a lifetime of service to the Lord. Jay attended Carnegie Institute of Technology to work toward a Masters’ Degree, and Shirley worked as a secretary. He worked part-time for one year, then full-time for ALCOA for sixteen years as an Electrical and/or Tool Engineer. Three children (Keith, Lisa and Craig) were born during his time with ALCOA, and Jay was called as Branch President in the church. He was then transferred to Chillicothe, Ohio where their son, Kevin, was born. Jay served as Branch President for three years; then he transferred to the Construction Division in Lebanon, PA where their daughter, Suzanne, was born.
On August 12, 1967, the family flew to Paramaribo, Surinam, South America so Jay could work as a Chief Engineer for an alumina refining plant – the weather was very hot and humid there, and it rained hard! [He had been offered a job at Suralco 11 years earlier due his knowledge of the Dutch Language.] As a worthy priesthood holder, Jay baptized Lisa into the LDS Church in a small creek in Surinam – her white dress had a permanent brown stain due to the weeds in the water. The family were the only members of the church in the country; they held “the Block Meetings,” taught the children the gospel in the family living room, and partook of the sacrament. The family befriended special Christian missionaries who truly lived their religion and inspired them to live their religion better. Altogether, they spent twenty months in Surinam.
Jay was then transferred to Kingston, Jamaica to work as an assistant construction manager, and they lived there for three wonderful years in marvelous temperate climate. Jay and Shirley’s youngest son, Randall, was born. Jay taught the LDS boys Scouts, Keith earned the Eagle Award, and the children who could walk went on hikes. Lisa earned her Queen’s Guide Award with a crown merit badge. The family played on the beach, took trips in the long boats out to the little islands, and had a wonderful time. The Jay Bills family and the John and Sharon Whitfield family were the first two families to start the church in Jamaica. Bit by bit, other members moved there: Blaine and Cathy Nichols, Paul and Marilyn Schmiel, Jim and Dixie Palmer, Lyn and Sue Adamson, Richard and Dorothy Davis, and Kathy Skousen. Kathy was a nurse on the Hospital Ship Hope, and she helped convert a teammate who was baptized in a wild river. All the members were helped by the quarterly visits from Mission President J. Murray Rawson and his wife, Ann. We have continued to stay in contact with these families through reunions held every three years.
The next move landed the Bills family in Logan, Utah, where they spent ten years owning their own business. The family learned to dehydrate food, and Jay built and sold food dehydrators and compiled the book Home Food Dehydrating, which is still in print. The older four children graduated from Sky View High School. Jay was Scoutmaster, and Craig and Kevin earned their Eagle Scout awards.
Jay was hired to go to Gabbs, Nevada as a plant maintenance manager for three years, where Suzanne graduated and Shirley was the early morning Seminary teacher. Jay taught Scouts again, and Randall earned his Eagle Scout.
Their next adventure was moving to Arizona for eight years and then California for two years before retiring to Malad.
Jay will be remembered for teaching family history to many people. His example of hard work carried over to his children as he raised a huge garden and shared the bounty with his neighbors and those he home taught. His corn on the cob was amazing. He earned his Master Gardner Award. He raised honey bees, extracted the honey, and taught his grandchildren. He was an EMT for three years, driving an ambulance. He served on the Oneida County Fair Board from 1997-1999.
Jay was a dedicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He loved the Savior and faithfully served him until the end. More than anything else, he loved his family and found joy in spending time with them. When asked what his greatest accomplishment was, Jay always said “my children.” He loved being a dad and was tested many times as a father, but he always remained steadfast in his love for each one of his children and was very proud of the people they became. Four of Jay and Shirley’s six children served missions for the LDS church.
Jay was preceded in death by his father, mother, sister, two brothers, and daughter, Lisa.
He is survived by his loving wife, Shirley, a marriage of almost 62 years, five children: Keith (Michele) Bills of Utah, Craig (Gayla) Bills of Utah, Kevin (Trina) Bills of Utah, Suzanne Layton of Idaho and Randall (Tara) Bills of Seattle, Washington, 21 grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren with two more on the way.
Jay’s family would like to thank the compassionate staff at the Nell J. Redfield Memorial Long-term Nursing facility for their years of love and service to him.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. with a viewing from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the 2nd/4th/5th Ward LDS Church Building 20 S. 100 W. Malad City. Burial will follow in the Malad City Cemetery.
Condolences and memories may be sent to the family by visiting www.horsleyfuneralhome.com