Peter Richard Bilyard, age 81, beloved husband of 39 years to Celeste Loxsom Bilyard, passed away on Good Friday, April 7, 2023 .
Peter was born in Bridgeport, CT on February 16, 1942, the fourth child to Arthur H. Bilyard, Sr. and Ruth Ennis Bilyard. He grew up in Fairfield, CT, graduating from Roger Ludlowe High School in 1960. Peter lived in his beloved Fairfield for over 70 years before moving to Stratford. Throughout his life his interests, curiosity, and expertise were boundless. The word polymath comes to mind.
An aficionado of jazz, at 16 he formed and led his own band with his lifelong friend Bill Elias and other young musicians, playing many gigs at dance halls and weddings throughout the area.
In his twenties, he developed an interest in photography. As was his nature, he studied every aspect of the art, and as he did with every interest, he became an expert in its history, theory, and practice. In 1966, he opened his own commercial and portrait studio in Fairfield. In 1974 he was tapped by a national magazine to shoot stills for the film “Jaws” on Martha’s Vineyard.
He learned the art of woodworking from his father and created many beautiful pieces throughout his lifetime. After his father’s death, Peter took over the family masonry business specializing in antique house restoration, and worked on many of the area’s finest homes. Peter had authoritative knowledge of antique tools and often incorporated their use into his work.
For many years, Peter shared his vast knowledge of and passion for his hometown as a docent for the Fairfield Historical Society. But you didn’t need to go to the Historical Society to benefit from his tales. He volunteered countless hours facilitating tours of colonial Fairfield with the children of Roger Sherman Elementary, for which he received a notable honor from the Fairfield Board of Education.
He was a gifted story-teller who enthusiastically shared his knowledge. He was always handy with a joke and entranced everyone who had the good fortune to hear him speak.
Perhaps, most importantly, his family and friends adored him. This, of course, is the highest accomplishment any of us can wish for.
Peter was predeceased by his parents, and siblings Barbara Davies, Arthur Bilyard, Jr., and Judith Stern.
In addition to his wife Celeste, Peter is survived by his five children, Elizabeth Bilyard (Matt Gilhuly) of Fairfield; Karen Connelly (John) of Stratford; Whitney Mercurio (Max Brown) of Boston; Phoebe Darwin (Matt) of Fanwood, NJ; and Wesley Bilyard of Stratford. He also leaves eleven grandchildren, Caitlin Bechtel, William Bechtel, Emma Thomas, Christopher Connelly, Jack Connelly, Lena Connelly, Frank Mercurio III, Domenic Mercurio, Finley Darwin, Julian Darwin, and Marlowe Darwin. He is also survived by his former wife and mother of his first three children, Joann Baglia Bilyard of Black Rock.
The family would like to thank the staff at Masonicare in Wallingford for the care and kindness given to Peter during his illness.
Calling hours will be on Sunday, April 16th from 2–5 p.m. at the Spear-Miller Funeral Home, 39 South Benson Road Fairfield.
A service will be held on Monday, April 17th at 11 a.m. at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association in Peter’s memory. www.alz.org
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Peter R. Bilyard, please visit our floral store.
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