By JJ: Originally part of Nashville fandom, Lee (Van Deest) Billings was a member of the Middle Tennessee Science Fiction Society, active in club events, part of the lively community at alt.callahans on Usenet, and participating in conventions all over the country. A singer and brilliant lyricist, she became a big Filker, coordinating the Filk programming at many conventions.
Up to the 1990s, there was a lack of strong filk programming in Southern Fandom. She filled that gap by creating and chairing Musicon for 5 years. She described that evolution in The History of Musicon 1992-1996.
She was Guest of Honor at Harmonicon III in 1995, and was honored as Toastmistress at GAFilk 1 in 1999, which picked up the mantle of Southern Filkdom after the final Musicon.
After moving to Houston two decades ago, she became a strong supporter of Apollocon, and assisted that convention in various roles.
Lee was a jewelry artisan, creating unique and interesting pieces. She and her partner Russ had a Dealer’s Table at many conventions. She regularly posted photos of unusual and fascinating geological specimens on her Facebook wall. In her business’ “About” section, she said, “Starcat Designs came into being in 2002, growing out of my love of rocks and minerals. Most of my jewelry designs are one-of-a-kind.The materials used include stone, glass, organics (pearls, bone, shell, wood, etc.), and metals.”
I only got to know Lee during the last three and a half years, through her participation in the File 770 community and in conversations with her at Worldcon and on Facebook. I’m far from an expert on her contributions to fandom and filkdom; I welcome comments from those who have more knowledge of her life, and links to tributes to her elsewhere on the web.
After being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer more than a year ago, Lee defied the odds and continued to contribute her wit, wisdom, and assistance to others while fighting to overcome her own illness.
Lee was an incredibly clever, vibrant, and eloquent person, a fierce advocate of fair and considerate treatment for the marginalized and less-privileged, and she will be greatly missed not only by me, but by all who knew her. She is survived by her domestic partner of 20 years, Russ Ault, and their seven rescue cats.
Lee’s partner Russ says:
There will be a memorial service of some sort at a later date. There will be no funeral. Lee requested that her remains be cremated. I will be collecting remembrances to sort through for the memorial. They can be emailed to rault42 [at] gmail [dot] com.
If desired, memorial donations can be made to Project Purple.