A local civic activist is being remembered for his volunteerism and involvement in local government following his death late last week.
Duane Billington died quietly Friday after a short battle with cancer at Avow Hospice in East Naples, friends said. He was 66.
Billington moved to Florida from Wisconsin in 1975, becoming entrenched in local government circles. Friends said he was most passionate about making fire district consolidation a reality, and last fall, he ran a campaign for a seat on the Golden Gate fire commission that ultimately was unsuccessful.
“Duane was a tireless community activist who always championed causes that he believed would benefit the community and you know, his efforts will be sorely missed by everybody,” said Peter Gaddy, who came to know Billington from his frequent public comments at county commission meetings.
Jason Billington said his father had been seen for a swollen throat and in recent weeks was diagnosed with lung cancer that spread to his stomach and metastasized to his brain.
“A month ago, he was out pulling weeds and going to meetings,” Billington said. “You definitely wouldn’t have known he was as bad as he was.”
Billington’s civic resume was long, including stints with the Golden Gate Frontier Days Festival, the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Golden Gate Community Center, civic associations in both Golden Gate and Golden Gate Estates, and countless other volunteer gigs.
“He was a staunch fighter for truth and justice, fiscal responsibility and transparency, and a prolific letter writer in the local papers on the issues of the day,” friend Jim Flanagan wrote in an email to county employees. “His is a life to be celebrated and acknowledged for his giving heart, determination and dedication.”
County Commissioner Tim Nance said he was rarely at a community event where Billington didn’t show up, calling him “a very human character in our community.”
“He was really a sweet man. I don’t think he’d like everyone calling him a sweet man, but he really was,” Nance said. “He had a heart as big as a house.”
Billington is survived by his son, Jason; daughter-in-law, Tiffany; and grandson, Cody. A memorial service is being planned for next week, Jason Billington said.
Flanagan said friends also are invited to toast his life at the Frontier Days Festival’s Irish Nite on March 10.