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PEKIN ~ Robert “Bob” Kenesaw Bilyeu, 85, of Pekin, formerly of Manito and Prophetstown, passed away at 9:10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 at his home in Pekin Estates at Liberty Village.

Born at home April 2, 1932 in rural Sangamon County near Curran, Illinois, he was the 6th of 10 children to Benjamin F. and Helen P. (Fisher) Bilyeu. On March 26, 1954 in Manito, Bob married Rose Marie Wilson, daughter of the late Marlowe and Marie (Sherman) Wilson.

His beloved wife of 63 years, Rose, survives. Also surviving are one daughter Wendy Hardin of Pekin; one son Marc Bilyeu of Davenport, Iowa; two granddaughters, Lydia Bilyeu of Chicago and Mara Bilyeu of Fulton; one step-granddaughter Sherry Dudley of Pekin; one step-grandson Jeff Hardin of Pekin; one step-great-granddaughter Ashley (Denny) Cassidy of North Pekin; one step-great-grandson Anthony Mucciante of Pekin; one step-great-great-granddaughter Gracelyn Cassidy; one brother, Jerry (Carole) Bilyeu of Gresham, Oregon; two sisters, Rosalie Reynolds of Rushville, and Jacque (Dwight) Whitaker of Topeka; two brothers-in-law Charles (Eleanor) Wilson of Knoxville, Tennessee and Dean (Alice) Wilson of Manito; one sister-in-law Norma Jean (Wayne) Hilst of Manito; his former daughter-in-law Beth (Bill) VanZuiden of Fulton; and many beloved nieces and nephews. Also surviving is his faithful grand-dog Cricky.

He was preceded in death by his parents; one son-in-law David Hardin; five brothers Ben, Warren, George, Norman, and Charles Bilyeu; one sister Dolores DeVore; two brothers-in-law John Reynolds and Al Devore; and four sisters-in-law Evelyn, Marie, & Joan Bilyeu and Shirley Wilson.

Robert was a 1950 graduate of Manito High School. He retired from Caterpillar Mapleton Plant in 1986 as a core machine operator with 24 years of service. During a Caterpillar layoff period in the late 1950s, he worked multiple jobs to provide for his young family, which included moving to Reno, Nevada for work. After returning to Illinois in 1961, he drove a truck delivering Coca-Cola products. Later in the 1960s, he learned the trade of plastering while laboring with Smith Lath & Plaster of Manito. In addition, throughout his life, he has worked part-time doing home repairs and remodeling jobs in Tazewell County and while wintering in Tucson, Arizona after retirement.

Bob was also a softball player/manager in his younger years, a skilled mechanic, talented woodworker, golfer, and a life-long fan of the St. Louis Cardinal baseball team. He always lovingly supported his children and grandchildren, giving of his time and skills to assist them whenever possible.

Bob has been a member of the First Baptist Church of Pekin since 1966 where he has served faithfully as Deacon, Trustee, Usher, Greeter, Sunday School teacher, cook & teacher for the Men’s Breakfast, and kitchen helper & monitor for Townsquare and the Awana Club. He especially enjoyed working with the church’s outreach program at Jefferson Grade School, where he was a mentor to young boys and was also able to use his skills working with wood to make dozens of bookshelves that were given to each boy and girl in the Kids Hope program. In addition, he volunteered hundreds of hours over the years doing yard work and repairs/remodeling projects at his church.

After being diagnosed with widespread cancer in March 2017, Bob bravely faced the end, comfortable in his belief of everlasting life with his Lord and Savior. With his family close, especially his wife Rose or “his rock” as he called her, and hospice care through Harbor Light, Bob was surrounded in love the last 6 months of his life.

His memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, September 23, 2017 at First Baptist Church in Pekin.  Pastor Vernon Risner and Pastor Brad Martin will officiate.  Visitation will be one hour before the service Saturday at the church.  Private inurnment will be in Meadow Lawn Cemetery in Manito.

Preston-Hanley Funeral Homes & Crematory in Pekin is assisting the family with arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church, 700 South Capitol Street, Pekin, IL 61554.

To express condolences online, visit www.preston-hanley.com  Condolences can also be mailed to the family at 1540 El Camino Dr, Apt 244, Pekin, IL 61554.