One Big happy familyPublished 1:48pm Saturday, September 8, 2012
Dennis and Evelyn Bilbo have never missed any of their nine grandchildren’s birthdays, a feat sure to be remembered when Grandparents’ Day rolls around Sunday. Unfortunately, that impressive streak might be broken sometime this year. The Bilbos have long-standing plans and will miss their granddaughter Grace’s third birthday.
Still, the Bilbos have managed to make it to all nine grandchildren’s birthdays up until now and their oldest grandson Bennett is now ten years old. Also, the Bilbos are clear that they intend to make up Grace’s birthday at a future date when they are able to do so.
Their family is spread out across the country. Their oldest, daughter Carol, lives in Dayton, Tenn. The middle child, daughter Deborah, lives in Greeley, Colo. Their youngest, son David, lives in Marietta, Ga.
Attending so many birthdays can prove to be rather costly. The Bilbos have rented houses from Tennessee to Maine to Asheville, N.C. to the most recent near Lake Lanier.
“None of the houses are cheap,” Dennis Bilbo said. “The Lord has blessed us.”
He also credits his daughter Deborah, who has been skilled at planning events for the family to enjoy together.
Blayne Chastain, Deborah’s husband, had the opportunity to pursue his Master’s degree in Irish Music at the University of Limerick.
As a result, the Bilbos had the good fortune to pay a visit and fell in love with what they said was the beautiful land of Ireland.
“The Cliffs of Moher are fantastic,” Dennis Bilbo said.
Evelyn Bilbo was amazed by the history of Ireland.
“It’s fascinating,” she said. “If you don’t read your history before you go, it makes you want to read your history after.”
Also, the Bilbos said the people of Ireland were impressive.
“The people are so friendly,” Evelyn Bilbo said.
With so many birthday trips, it is a good thing the Bilbos love to travel.
“Obviously, we like to go places,” Evelyn Bilbo said.
Both of the Bilbos attended Missippi State University. Dennis Bilbo received a degree in electrical engineering and had a successful career with Alabama Power, before retiring seven years ago. Evelyn Bilbo received her M.Ed. in Music Education from Mississippi State University and served as the choir director at various points for Escambia County Middle Preparatory School and Escambia County High School. She retired in 2003.
The Bilbos moved to Atmore in 1979 and they have called it home for 33 years. In fact, both of their daughters were married at the Atmore Presbyterian Church. Also, both daughters have brought their children back for swimming lessons here at the Atmore City Pool.
The Bilbos said it was more challenging for them to attend birthdays when Bennett was born.
“We were working when we had our first grandchild,” Evelyn Bilbo said. “So, we had to work around our work schedule.”
They managed to visit all nine of their grandchildren within a month of their birth. Their grandson Wilson arrived six weeks early, so they were nearby when he was born in Mobile.
“We love every one of them dearly,” Dennis Bilbo said.
Evelyn Bilbo said a person can not understand the joy of being a grandparent without being one.
“You hear people talking about their grand kids but you don’t understand until you have them,” she said.
In addition to multiple birthday trips, the Bilbos try to get their entire family together annually.
“We try to get together for Christmas and then we try to get together at least one time a year.”
That is the reason the Bilbos have rented several different homes. Evelyn Bilbo said having an inviting place for the entire family is a major part in why they live where they live.
“That’s one reason we live in this house: rather than downsizing, we upsized,” she said.
The former teacher enjoys watching each grandchild develop unique traits and grow in their education.
“I think just watching them grow and become little individuals and watching them learn,” Evelyn Bilbo said. “It’s just amazing to me how quickly they learn.”
Dennis Bilbo feels lucky to have extended family members that they are happy to call family.
“We’re real close to all of our kids’ in-laws,” Dennis Bilbo said. “They’re all wonderful people.”
The Bilbos say they just feel lucky to be grandparents.
“It’s just such a blessing. All of our grandchildren are perfectly healthy,” Dennis Bilbo said. “So when they come here, it’s a madhouse. But it’s a fun madhouse.”