Lynn Billingsley is a Florida girl, a self-described “city girl,” really. But the retired teacher has established a forestry scholarship through the Louisiana Forestry Foundation in her name and that of her late husband, Robert.
The retired teacher honored the wish of her husband that came up in a conversation the couple had on the day he died.
Robert’s grandfather and namesake, Walter Robert Billingsley, was a DeSoto Parish native and owned forest land there. Robert’s father, Robert Josh Billingsley, was born in DeSoto Parish, too, but after earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana Tech University, he was called up during World War II and served a stint during the Korean War as well.
After his stint in the U.S. Navy, Robert’s father landed in Florida and that’s where young Robert grew up and spent much of his life.
Billingsley, however, held on to the forest land in Louisiana.
A civil engineer, Billingsley finished at the University of Florida and joined the Federal Aviation Administration, going to work in Atlanta to design air traffic control towers. Years later he would transfer to Washington, D.C., and later spend time in Kuwait advising the government there as it built airports.
After returning to Washington, he married Lynn and returned to the Airports Division of the FAA, landing in Orlando, then spending years in Chicago at the senior executive level. When it was time to retire, the Billingsleys returned to their home state of Florida.
And yet, they hung on to the family forest land in Louisiana with Robert handling the management and timber sales with a local forester.
Back at his childhood home of Valparaiso, Florida, Robert Billingsley served eight years as a city commissioner. He also made time to restore old homes, including a log cabin in Mossy Head, Florida, built in 1900, and his childhood home, The Billingsley Cottage, which is listed as historic with the state.
Billingsley had four bouts with cancer, Lynn said. That had led to conversations about how to handle some things after his passing.
“He said, ‘You know what to do with everything when I’m gone,’ ” Lynn Billingsley said. “I told him yes, except for all this forest land.”
Robert’s suggestion was to just give it to education. The result was the generosity to the Foundation.
“It was the right place to go,” Lynn said.