Michael Bil­lig

Pop­u­lar Hunt Val­ley op­tometrist taught him­self to play guitar and shared his wood­work­ing and cook­ing skills

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jkelly@balt­sun.com

Michael Bil­lig, an op­tometrist who played the guitar and was a wood­worker, died of cancer Oct. 2 at his Hunt Val­ley home. He was 59.

Born in Bal­ti­more and raised in Pikesville, he was the son of Jack Bil­lig, an owner of the A.J. Bil­lig & Co. auc­tion­eers, and Janet Abell.

He at­tended Sud­brook Ju­nior High School and was a1974 grad­u­ate of Pikesville High School.

He earned a busi­ness de­gree at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park, then went on to spend a year tak­ing science cour­ses for grad­u­ate school.

He en­rolled at Bos­ton’s New Eng­land Col­lege of Op­tom­e­try, where he earned a de­gree in 1983.

“When he was grow­ing up, peo­ple asked if he was re­lated to the auc­tion­eers,” said his brother, Daniel M. Bil­lig of Owings Mills. “In the last 20 years, peo­ple asked me if I were re­lated to Dr. Bil­lig. His pa­tients — and he had hun­dreds of them — loved him.”

While liv­ing in Bos­ton, he met El­iz­a­beth Jones “Liz” Sei­den­berg, who was a lab tech­ni­cian at Beth Is­rael Hospi­tal. They later mar­ried.

Dr. Bil­lig es­tab­lished a prac­tice in Bal­ti­more. He ini­tially worked In lo­cal prac­tices, and joined Rux­ton Tow­ers Eye As­so­ciates in 1989. He spe­cial­ized in con­tact lens fit­ting.

“He would see fam­i­lies for 25 years or more,” said his wife. “He lis­tened to what his pa­tients’ needs were. He once had a Bal­ti­more Sym­phony mem­ber come with his in­stru­ment. He stud­ied how far the mu­sic stand was from his eyes and then made the ad­just­ment to the lens.”

Fond of mu­sic, Dr. Bil­lig taught him­self to play guitar while he was in high school. He never gave up the in­stru­ment and spe­cial­ized in 1970s rock.

“He played for self-en­joy­ment, he played for me and he played for a cou­ple of close friends,” said his wife, a li­brary as­sis­tant at Friends School. “He wished he were a singer. He re­ally didn’t like to play in front of peo­ple or have an au­di­ence. When he had free time, he’d be in his wood shop play­ing mu­sic or record­ing it.”

Dr. Bil­lig also taught him­self wood­work­ing skills and had a lathe in his base­ment.

“Pa­tients would bring him sec­tions of a tree that had fallen on their prop­erty, and be­fore long he’d make it into a beau­ti­ful ob­ject,” said his wife. “Then he would re­turn it to them in a dif­fer­ent shape.

“He made a chess set for my son,” she said. “All the pieces were pre­cise and beau­ti­ful.”

Dr. Bil­lig worked with an ar­chi­tect to build a home in Booth­bay Har­bor, Maine, about six years ago. He had plans to cre­ate a wood­work­ing room and a mu­sic stu­dio in the res­i­dence, where he in­tended to spend re­tire­ment. “He was a born chef. He could look in the pantry and would cre­ate a fab­u­lous meal,” said his wife. “He didn’t go out to din­ner so much, as we would have peo­ple over. He cre­ated a recipe book for our son. The whole fam­ily ben­e­fited from his ex­per­tise.”

Among his stan­dard dishes were pasta sauces, stews, smoked salmon and crab dip.

“If he went to a res­tau­rant, which wasn’t that of­ten, and he had some­thing he liked, he would fig­ure it out and work un­til he du­pli­cated it,” said his wife. “He was not a baker, but he was a won­der­ful en­tree chef.”

Ser­vices were held Oct. 9 at Sol Levin­son and Brothers.

In ad­di­tion to his brother and wife of 31 years, sur­vivors in­clude his son, Maxwell Bil­lig of Tow­son; and his par­ents, who live in Brook­landville. A 2-year-old daugh­ter, Madeleine “Maddie” Bil­lig, died in 1993. An­other brother, An­drew Bil­lig, died in April. “His pa­tients — and he had hun­dreds of them — loved him,” Michael Bil­lig’s brother said.

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