558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Melvin O. Bilyeu
January 03, 2013
“My life was full.” Melvin O. Bilyeu, longtime Prineville resident, passed away peacefully in his home Tuesday, December 4, 2012, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 89 years old.
Melvin was born in Sprague, Washington, April 22, 1923, to Fred and Grace Ella (Calvert) Bilyeu. During his early years Melvin and his family lived in Deer Park, Washington, where he attended Deer Park Elementary School. His strong moral character and work ethic showed itself at an early age as Melvin wrote about “being honest to family and country,” in a school essay in his 2nd year of school, in which he completed both 2nd and 3rd grades.
He was an integral part of the family ranch operations in his teen years when he and his family later moved to Reardon, Washington. Known as “Buck” in his high school years, Melvin graduated from Reardon High School in 1940. He left Reardon after high school to receive training as an electrician at Coyne Electrical School in Chicago, IL, which he completed in 1941.
Returning to Washington, Melvin married his high school sweetheart, Lorene Nielson, September 2, 1941, and they set up household in Seattle, WA. Between the years 1941 and 1944, Melvin worked for Boeing and Todd Pacific Shipyards and added two children to the family. He was drafted into the Navy in 1944 and moved Lorene and children to the Spokane area so they could be closer to family while he was away.
Melvin received his initial training at Farragut Naval Training Station in Farragut, ID, and was then stationed at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Jacksonville, FL, until the completion of his military service in 1946. He was awarded the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal for his service. Melvin returned to Spokane, WA, taking up the electrical trade once again. Two more children were added to the family. Raising children and working took up most of his time, but he did find time to try his hand at racing horses a few times in the small communities of Deer Park, WA and Colville, WA
Melvin packed up his family and headed to Dayville, OR, in late 1952, where he took over a cattle ranch. The Bilyeus lived in Dayville until 1958, when they moved to Prineville. Here Melvin once again took up the electrical trade, first working for Redmond Electric and later forming his own business, Bilyeu Electric. It was in Prineville that their fifth and final child was born. In addition to running his electrical business, Melvin, along with a partner, Howard Fall, subdivided and sold land near Prineville Reservoir, where the Bilyeus had moved in 1970.
Throughout his life, Melvin enjoyed a variety of activities and interests, including completing jigsaw puzzles, many of which he built frames for and gave away as gifts. He and the family took up boating and water skiing in their early years in Prineville, even adventuring up the Columbia River with their boating club. He was an avid reader, especially of Westerns, and a big supporter of Crook County Library. He was a great story-teller, remembering details like no one else. After retirement, Melvin and Lorene enjoyed traveling many weeks of the year, from the warm deserts of California and Arizona to the great fishing lakes of Montana. Melvin had also been a 50+ year member of both the local Elks and Masonic Lodges.
Melvin was meticulous in all he did, and taught those around him, especially his children, the importance of a strong work ethic. “It is far better to measure twice and cut once, being accurate, than to make a mistake and have it cost you double.” He was a generous man, utilizing his creative and wood-working skills to complete dozens of wooden toys which he donated to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland and in building hundreds of wooden bird houses for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Melvin is survived by his wife, Lorene Bilyeu (Prineville); five children, Fred Bilyeu (Vancouver, WA), Larry Bilyeu (Eugene, OR), Valerie Bilyeu Davis, Curtis Bilyeu, and Cheree Bilyeu Brennan (Mountain Home, ID); 16 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Melvin was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Grace, his sister, Berniece (Bilyeu) Williams, and one grandchild. Much of Melvin’s life can be summed up in these words from President Abraham Lincoln, “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
Dad, thank you for all the things you taught us...especially when we thought we already knew it all! You are loved and you will be greatly missed.
No services will be held at this time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations please be made to Prineville Memorial Hospice, 1201 N.E. Elm St., Prineville, OR 97754, whose various staff members have meant so much to Melvin and his family.
This obituary is a reprint of one that originally ran on December 25, 2012. The Central Oregonian regrets any inconvenience that the original obituary may have caused family and friends.