Billy W. Gay, 87, of Gum Branch, passed away Sunday, September 12, 2021, at home after a short, but heroic battle with lung cancer surrounded by his loved ones. He was born in Lancaster, South Carolina, to Herman and Viola Hill Gay. He worked in the cotton mills and pulp wooding until he joined the military at 18. He always said joining the military was much easier than working in the mills or woods. He went straight from basic training to Korea to serve two tours during the Korean war. It was while stationed in Germany that he met the love of his life, Melanie Leigner. He was able to serve two tours in Germany before being stationed at Ft. Stewart. It was in Allenhurst that they decided to retire and make it their home after he served in the Vietnam War. He was retired from the Army for three days before he started at Interstate Paper. He retired after working there for over 30 years. In the St. John’s Road neighborhood, he and Melanie became the uncle and aunt to every child in the neighborhood. He and Melanie attended births, weddings, baptisms, graduations, concerts, and holidays of many of the children. He taught them to drive, took them shopping, out to eat, fishing, and completely spoiled them all. It was through these children that he and Melanie created their large family here in Georgia. He enjoyed gardening, fishing, reading, eating out, and nature. He adored animals and always had a pet. He had a special place in his heart for dogs with his last companions being Stubby and Karma. He was often seen driving with at least one dog riding shotgun.
Mr. Gay leaves behind his adopted niece and nephew, Sarah and Jeff Hein; adopted granddaughter, who affectionately called him Opa, Emilee Hein; and close friends, Roger and Hazel Todd. He is survived by two sisters, Margaret (Alton) Boone and Mary Ellen Ackerman and a brother, Randy (Kay) Gay all of Lancaster, South Carolina. He is preceded in death by his wife, Melanie Gay, and sister, Frankie Phillips. A special thank you to Helen Hammer, his caretaker in his final weeks. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to GHC Hospice or Liberty County Humane Society. A private memorial service is planned for a later date.
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