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Billings’ recovery triumph for faith

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The Section 10 Basketball Championships will approach their 40th birthday next season and every single tournament has generated any number of remarkable stories.

The 2012-13 Boys and Girls Tournaments were no exception. In the boys ranks, there was Madrid-Waddington stringing upsets in a run from the number sixth seed in Class D to the New York State regional finals where the Yellowjackets lost to eventual state champion Argyle.

The girls tournament continued until Friday as Class B Champion Salmon River overcame struggles late in the regular season to reach the New York State Final Four at Hudson Valley Community College. The Shamrocks fell in a very competitive 65-53 contest to Waterloo after upsetting defending state champion Watervliet at SUNY Potsdam.

Bridging the developments of the boys and girls tournaments was a story for all ages and a story for the ages. The appearance of longtime official Bob “The Rev” Billings at several venues as he entered the home stretch of his recovery from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia - cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Along with spending time with his fellow officials, coaches and his many friends the weakened but cancer free “Rev” also graced the action with a baritone version of the National Anthem at a few games. Floating melodies which echoed the peace his faith has brought him. He also took part in the presentation of the first Tony Murray Memorial Warrior awards.

Rev. Billings began officiating soccer, basketball and softball in the early 1980’s. To his fellow officials he is known as “The Rev” or Reverend Billings. To his parishioners at the Norwood Free Methodist Church and the St. Regis Falls Free Methodist Church, he is cherished as “Pastor Bob”. He presides over the two churches with the help of his wife of over 42 years, Linda, who plays the keyboard at both churches. Linda Billings has also worked for Dr. Mazzotta the Canton-Potsdam Hospital since 1978.

In both the athletic and ecumenical circles he is valued as a kind and caring person with a an untiring dedication for his duties and the people of the North Country.

“It is unusual for pastors to stay in one place more than six or seven years but my wife and I fell in love with the area and its people,” said Rev. Billings, a Pennsylvania native and 1970 graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College, who came to Norwood in 1973. “Our three children really liked the Norwood-Norfolk school district which they all attended K-12.”

Back in April, his parishioners were stunned when he collapsed during a church service. He was diagnosed with AML at the Canton Potsdam Hospital and in a matter of days a plan was devised for a complete recovery.

From day one the theme of the plan and a journey to wellness was “God is indeed Good - ALL the Time!

Being able to attend the sectional basketball games was part of the plan which is right on schedule. A schedule which included three rounds of chemotherapy and finally a stem cell transplant by Dr. Antin of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute on Aug. 22 at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“I still get tired easily but it is just great to be back among my friends and doing the things I love. Its part of the plan and I couldn’t have done it without my wife Linda by my side every step of the way” said Rev. Billings.

“The stem cells were harvested from a donor in Europe in the morning and flown to Boston where the transplant began at 9 p.m.”

A visit to his doctor in Boston on Wednesday (203 days after the transplant) brought an outstanding report: all counts normal including kidney functions.

So all systems are go to walk between the lines to call a modified soccer game and return to churches fulltime in August.

The most important system, his immune system, which will be brought back to normal through a series of vaccinations.

“There is not much else to say except that I am truly blessed and I appreciate all that you my friends, have done for me. Your kind thoughts and prayers are what has gotten me through these many months,” said Rev. Billings in a Facebook-email posting on Wednesday night.

“That and my wonderful Lord. GOD is indeed GOOD ~ ALL THE TIME!

FOLLOW THE JOURNEY

The journey of Rev and Linda Billings is chronicled on daily on-line facebook diary constructed by Shana Maxwell on a truly inspiring website: revbillings.servingwith joy.com. The site features daily postings by Rev. Billings, postings of encouragement by his family, parishoners and friends and family photos.

Those travelling the site will guided by inspirational graphic signposts and will be touched by the power of prayer and the strength in congregation.

As Rev. Billings says “This story is not about me, but about God and faith and the support of my family and friends.”

And a story that bears repeating.

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