On Mar. 3, 2018, we lost a unique and remarkable man and heaven gained an incomparable Caterpillar mechanic. Edward Franklin Billups, known to all as Ted, was born in Winchester, ID on Nov. 17, 1923 to Charles (“Bike”) and Jean (Waters) Billups. Following Ted were a brother, Robert (Bob), and two sisters, Joyce and Diane.
Ted attended grade and high school in Nez Perce, graduating in 1941. He enrolled at Lewis & Clark State College, but his fascination with big diesel equipment, particularly Caterpillar tractors, soon lured him away to start a 75-year career as an expert mechanic and shop foreman. His encyclopedic knowledge, bear trap memory, and hard-driving never-quit work ethic earned him recognition as a trusted expert and advisor on all things Caterpillar throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Caterpillar H.Q. in Peoria, Illinois paid Ted the highest compliment by incorporating several of his suggestions based on his actual experience into design changes on some of their equipment.
Ted remembered catching the “bug” as a very young boy watching a steam engine idling and hissing on the old railroad spur in Nez Perce. When the engineer tooted the whistle and the iron giant started to move, he was hooked for life. A blown knee from high school football kept him out of the army, so in 1942 Ted started work at Brown Motors in Nez Perce as an apprentice mechanic. In 1945, Ted met Dolores Frei of Ferdinand and they married the following year. Two daughters soon followed this happy event, Margaret (Margee) and Jody.
In 1947, the family moved to Grangeville and Ted transferred to the Brown Motors shop there. He continued to build a reputation as a knowledgeable and dependable hard-working tractor mechanic. In 1957, he was promoted to shop foreman, a position he kept for the next 50 years through the change of ownership to Bell Equipment. Even toward the end of his 94 years, Ted took great pride that he could still work part-time on the equipment he loved as part of the Bell Equipment team.
Also, later in life, with the encouragement of his devoted and ever patient wife Dolores, Ted branched out to start an antique tractor collection which included not only old Cats but also John Deere’s, Rumley’s, and many other old and rare makes and models. Ted didn’t believe in painting up an old tractor for “static display.” If it was in his collection, he had to restore it to running condition. Nothing pleased him more than hearing an old diesel roar back into life. Ted and Dolores enjoyed being members of the Lewis & Clark Antique Power Club, Branch 54, and in 2006 they were awarded Life Membership. In 2010, Ted was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association. They were also members of the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club, Chapter 14, and several other clubs and associations. Ted and Dolores took great delight in all their “old iron” friends and there are few who don’t have a favorite “Ted story” from past years. They enjoyed running their tractors in Grangeville’s Fourth of July parade and hosting club meetings for as long as their health permitted.
Ted is survived by his sisters Joyce Atkinson and Diane Paluso, his daughters and sons-in-law, Margee and Jim Heath and Jody and David Ginal. His grandchildren Jenny Polek, Marc Logue, and Daniel Heath and spouse Jane Liu, and his great-grandchildren Raeya and Teo Logue, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, “Bike” and Jean Billups, his brother, Bob Billups, and his beloved wife, Dolores.
A viewing will be held Friday, March 9, 2018 at the Blackmer Funeral Home from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. A rosary will be held Saturday March 10, 2018 at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Grangeville beginning at 11:00 a.m., followed by the funeral Mass at 11:30 a.m., and burial afterward at the Prairie View Cemetery. Dinner will follow at Sts. Peter and Paul activity center, where you are invited to come and share a Ted story or two. Blackmer Funeral Home of Grangeville is in charge of arrangements. Send condolences to the family to Blackmerfuneralhome.com.