by Weylan Deaver

FORT WORTH, Tex. (BNc) — Billy McKinley Kilgore passed away Feb. 15 at age 86. His funeral was conducted Feb. 20 at the Northwest church building in Fort Worth, with Robert Dodson officiating.

Born in China Grove, Tex. Nov. 12, 1925, Billy went on to graduate high school in Brownwood and marry his wife of 66 years, Billie Ruth Adams, on Aug. 9, 1944.

He fought as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific during World War II, then returned to Texas and took up a career as a firefighter. He retired at the rank of assistant chief in the fire department of Odessa, Tex.

Eventually, he moved to Fort Worth and became a member at the Northwest congregation, where I was then preaching. Thus, it was only toward the end of his eventful life that I came to know him as a devoted brother in Christ.

Billy was always upbeat, sunny, smiling, offering a hug or passing out candy, ever the encourager. It became a practice that, on Monday mornings, Billy, two of the church’s elders and I would pile in a vehicle and go visit the sick. Among the four, I was the only one not retired, and they all had decades on me. If I were ever feeling old, going out to visit with Billy and my elders could make me feel young again. I’d sit in the back seat with him and listen to stories of his days in the War, or his experiences as a fireman.

Whenever the saints assembled, Billy was always there to join in worship to the Lord. And he tried to make the most of opportunities to influence others with the gospel. Once, he even got my wife involved in a Bible study with a woman who lived next door to him.

When I remember Billy Kilgore, I think of two words: joyful Christian. Could anything better be said of a man? And, could there be any more effective way of influencing the lost than to be, simply, a joyful Christian?

I’m not in Fort Worth anymore, but, toward the end, I wrote a letter to him, closing with these words: “Billy, if we do not meet again here, then we will shake hands over there. Godspeed, brother.”