Cheney Free Press -


By Luella Dow

After many moves, Billiaus settle in Cheney


Vernon and Laura Billiau

Vernon and Laura Billiau spent years on the move but have finally settled in Cheney - for a second time.

Vernon and Laura Billiau lived at Cheney years ago for a short time. Laura's brother, Michael Dooley had a home here and they came to visit him. Yes, a Dooley is a real Irishman. I imagine Laura was surrounded with them as she grew up. Vernon shares his French background with his ability to build, to repair, to create.

Over the years the Billiau's have moved around a lot. Vernon said, "We have rabbits in our boots.'' They say Michigan is their original home. Laura claims Iron River and Vernon claims East Detroit.

They met in 1942 and were married in 1944 in Detroit when Laura was 18 and Vernon was 21 and on leave in the Navy. One day they were headed south, with it snowing all the way, when their car slid off into a guardrail.

It was a long walk but they made it to a general store in a small town in Tennessee. They listened to the Southerners with their deep drawling accent and the southerners listened to them and extended a friendly helping hand to rescue their car and they were on their way again.

Laura worked in Chicago while Vernon was in the Navy. She followed him wherever she could. When he was out of the service Vernon went back to his former employment as a telephone installer. He then was promoted to the engineering department.

Once again Vernon was transferred back to Michigan where he worked for Pacific Bell Telephone Company. Remember the rabbit's feet? In 1979 Vernon retired. Laura said she always went along when Vernon was transferred. She enjoyed seeing the different landscapes and liked traveling with him.

Here's another Billiau quote: "We're attached by Velcro."

The Billiau's had four children, two girls and two boys. One of their sons was killed in a car accident.

Vernon has reminisced about the times when he was a small boy, about 4 or 5 years old. His dad would set him down with some used lumber and have him pull the nails out of the lumber and pound them straight. He said, "My dad was a general contractor. He could do anything. And I inherited that from him."

Vernon has built several houses and unlike many contractors, he made sure there were enough electrical outlets in the home and at convenient places. Those who have seen his work remark how well planned it is.

One day the Billiau's were reading the newspaper and an ad caught Vernon's eye: "160 acres in Alaska. Live there one year and it will be yours." Little Laura looked at her husky husband and said, "No!" There would be no homestead in Alaska.

The Billiau's have had lots of experience planting a garden. They know how much work daily weeding can be. They share an idea for working in the hot sun: Rhubarb reflects the heat. Put a large rhubarb leaf on your head under your hat. It will keep you cool. Want to try it this summer?

For the second time, Vernon and Laura have now lived in Cheney for two months. Together as husband and wife for 69 years, they have a secret for their long marriage.

It sounds a bit Irish and is bolstered with French. The Billiau's are devoted to each other and the love they share. Here's the secret: "Don't sweat the small stuff." Think we can remember that? It's worth a million.

Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author. She can be reached at


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