A most recent photo of my good cousin, Billy Bay.
A Tribute to a Fine Cousin, Billy Bay
By Richard Mabey Jr.
My good cousin, Billy Bay, went Home to be with the Lord tonight. Sadness fills my heart. Billy was 55 years old. He has four children; Maggie, Steffie, Robbie and Ricky. They are all salt of the earth. Billy did a fantastic job of being a good father to his kids.
I don’t know where to begin. Billy was eight years younger than me. But at some point in time, maybe it happened five years ago or so, it was like he magically caught up with me and suddenly we were the same age. It’s hard to explain.
Billy made the best potato salad on planet earth. No joke. As a matter of fact, as I was riding up to the big family picnic, just a few weeks ago, I found myself looking forward to Billy’s potato salad. Billy’s potato salad made the potato salad that you buy in the grocery store taste like paper and paste. When you asked him for his recipe, he would just laugh.
Billy had a contagious laugh. His laugh came from somewhere deep in his inner self. He would throw his head back and laugh really loud. You just could not be depressed when Billy laughed. It was totally impossible.
Billy was quite charismatic. He had a certain presence. It was a gift. I don’t even know if he realized that he had that gift. But, he had a way to make people feel right at home. Billy had no pretensions. He loved wearing old T-shirts and denims.
Billy lived the past few years of his life with his two sons, Robbie and Ricky in a little rural area, outside of Binghamton. It was an amazing thing. He lived on this 20 acre lot. It may actually be bigger than that, I’m not sure. The lot was filled with maples, oaks and elms. And a lot of pine trees!
In fact our big family picnic, on my Mom’s side of the family, was always held where Billy lived. We just had our family picnic a few weeks ago. There had to be well over a hundred people there. It’s a big family.
At the picnic, Billy and I talked about Twilight Zone and the fact that Rod Serling was from Binghamton. I had asked Billy if he had visited the Twilight Zone Museum or saw Rod Serling’s star in Binghamton. Billy told me that he hadn’t, but he intended to check it out one of these days. Sadly, we never do get to see the sites in our own backyard.
Billy was a hard working man. In the early 1990’s, my dad hired Billy put in all new carpeting in the old Mabey Homestead in Lincoln Park. When I tell you that Billy did a great job, I mean that Billy did a super duper great job. Those of you who knew my dad, know that you really had to go the extra mile to impress him. Well, when I tell you that Dad was impressed with Billy’s craftsmanship, I am not kidding you.
Billy installed carpeting on both floors of the old Mabey Homestead. And, here’s the thing that really impressed my dad. Billy had very carefully installed the carpet on the 15 steps going up to the second floor. So much so, that it was as if the carpet was sculptured onto each and every step.
I remember when the carpet was first put down. Relatives and friends, who came to visit, would compliment the new wall to wall carpet. Dad would thank the person for their compliment. Then, Dad would say something like this:
“My nephew put in this carpet. Here let me show you something,” and then Dad would lead the person or group of people to the staircase. “Look at those stairs, how careful my nephew put in the carpet on the steps. I tell ya’, the kid really knows his stuff.”
Dad would tell everyone he ran into, from seeing a friend at the hardware store to talking to a fellow scout leader after the troop meeting, what a great job Billy did installing the carpet at our house. I think my dad’s bragging on Billy was better than any advertising campaign that Billy could ever pay for.
My cousin Billy was an ace fisherman. I think that he may well have been one of the greatest fisherman in all of New York State! From fishing for bass in a big lake, to fishing for trout in a rapidly moving stream; Billy knew all the ins and outs of fishing. He had a sixth sense about fishing.
You could be in a certain spot at the shore of a lake, watching that bobber for hours, with no luck. Well, Billy would come along and throw out his hook, worm and bobber and then within 10 minutes pull in a big old bass. Plainly speaking, I think that Billy was the greatest fisherman that I have ever known.
Billy was a good son, a good father and a good brother to his sister, Terri. He was just a really good guy. I think that he would have made a great salesman, if he wanted. He had that innate charisma, that some people are just born with.
Right now, I’m feeling very sad. A dear, wonderful cousin has left us. I have no doubt that he’s in Heaven, fishing! I can see him talking to Saint Peter, “listen, Pete, it’s in the wrist. Ya’ gotta put a little spring in your wrist when you cast out. And, ya’ gotta remember to reel in your lore nice and slow. Steady. That’s the main thing, slow and steady. Don’t worry, Pete, you’ll get the knack of it.”
I’m no theologian. But, I know this, Billy Bay will live on in my heart!