KEWADIN — Robert D. Bilby, age 71, of Kewadin, passed away Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. He was born Dec. 30, 1941, in Muncie, Ind., to Claude and Virginia (Rankin) Bilby.
Bob graduated from Cadillac High School in 1959; he then went on to complete a tool and die apprenticeship program at Ferris State University. While there he joined the men’s tennis team, playing number one singles and doubles.
On Nov. 4, 1961, Bob made the best decision of his life and married Carole Raisanen. For more than 50 years they made each other laugh and, in the process, raised three beautiful daughters, Kristin, Tara and Kimber.
Young and armed with boundless energy and determination, Bob started his own tool and die business, Uptilt Inc., in Lansing. He ran the company for more than 20 years, never caving to the labor unions.
He sold the business and, at the ripe age of 42, he went after his bucket list with gusto. First up, build a winning race-car team. He made tracks in USAC Midget racing, then set his sights on the big leagues —NASCAR. He came to Winston Cup in 1989 with his own team, Automotion, then partnered with legendary racer Bobby Allison to form Bobby Allison Motorsports the following year. Not one to sit in the stands and admire his car from afar, Bob rolled up his sleeves and got his elbows dirty in the pits, working as the team windshield washer. He was truly “one of the guys” even though he was still a Yankee from Michigan. From soapbox derbies in the back alleys of Cadillac to bumpin’ n’ rubbin’ with the likes of Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip, Bob accomplished so much in his life on and off the track.
After his last lap in racing Bob turned his attention and craft homeward. One would often find him in his pole barn tinkering with hot rod engines or building souped-up model airplanes. He could make just about anything with his hands. But what brought him the most joy in life was spending time with his grandchildren. Whether it was a shared joke over breakfast, a cheer of support from the sideline or a little coaching to help them along their way, he was there for all of them — wholeheartedly. He looked forward to hearing about their summer jobs and new adventures, their upcoming classes or their new cars, but above all, he just loved to hear from them. They meant the world to him.