Valdosta Daily Times

October 28, 2013

One man’s many lives

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA —  Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ted Bilak, has been a resident of Valdosta since 1993. Ted began his worldly travels by joining the Navy.

Bilak recalled his presence in Iran during the entire Iranian hostage crisis, from November 1979 to January 1981.

“I was in Navy intel, and I was there for the whole thing. That’s why I got out. After that I didn’t want anything to do with secret stuff, so I got out and went back to Pittsburgh. I was out for about eight months, then I missed it, I missed the military. So I joined the Air Force,” Bilak said.

In the Air Force, Bilak was a mechanic, and this allowed him to travel more.

“I was actually in the Philippines when Mt. Pinatubo nearly leveled the base. Then they sent me to Homestead Air Force Base where I saw Hurricane Andrew level that base,” Bilak said.

Next, the Air Force flew Bilak to Korea, and they informed him, “You can go anywhere you want to in the world,” then they asked, “Where do you want to go?” Bilak replied, “I want to go to Moody.”

Ted retired from the Air Force at Moody in 1995.

Bilak recalls missing the 1980s in America because he was overseas.

“When I left we had leaded gas, and when I came back there was unleaded gas, and I didn’t know what to do because I was looking for leaded gas and nobody had leaded gas,” Bilak said.

Now, he claims, “God and family are my two main priorities, the rest is just filler. Life is way too short.”

For Bilak, there is a lot of filler.

Bilak has worked for the Valdosta-Lowndes Development Services as a plans examiner for 16 years, but that is just his job. He also is a gun and motorcycle enthusiast, an actor, a church choir member, a former soccer and baseball coach, and a positive influence for his family and the community; he also drives Tipsy Transit because he enjoys meeting new people, and making sure they arrive home safely.

Faith: Not ashamed of his faith, Bilak’s desk houses a Bible in its corner. Ted is a Catholic man, who often speaks at his church. He also sings in his church’s choir.

Family: He is extremely involved in his children’s lives. He has two daughters, Eileen, 32, and Ashley, 15, and a son, Ted, 26. He coached Ted’s sports teams; also he has never missed a father daughter dance, since his daughter was 1.

“Every year we pick out a suit for me online; she’ll pick out a dress she likes, and I never see her dress until the night of the dance,” Bilak said.

In an essay she wrote for school, Ashley, described her father as a big kid at heart. She recalled a time when she claimed to be bored, and Bilak suggested that Ashley call a friend to take an impromptu trip to

Tallahassee. They all went on a road trip, and Ashley proclaimed that it was the best day of her life.

Job:!“My job is to ensure the safety of the public. Businesses like daycares and personal-care homes are being built here, so we need to make sure they are safe,” Bilak said.

Hobbies: Bilak owns three motorcycles, a 1969 Harley-Davidson Sportster, a custom-built 2005  Kawasaki Nomad, and a custom-built chopper.

“I had the chopper built in 2008, from the ground up, and I ride it all of the time,” Bilak said.

“The looks I get in town are totally different when I am on my chopper as opposed to the Kawasaki. On the chopper, people get out of my way; on the Kawasaki, I’m more of an oddity.”

Bilak is also a self-proclaimed gun enthusiast.

“I love guns; I shoot them every chance I get. I also build AR-15s.”

He is also a member of Theatre Guild Valdosta.

“I love acting at the Valdosta theatre. I really love it.”

Bilak discovered this passion when he auditioned for his first play, and he unexpectedly received the lead role.

“I was excited that I got the lead part. But then when I had to learn all of my lines, I was scared because you have to remember a lot of lines, and once you learn the lines, then you have to learn the blocking, then you have got to learn how to deliver the lines, so it’s a lot, but to me, it keeps my mind active. Because if I’m doing the same stuff everyday I get bored. So that spices it up for me,” Bilak said.

Ted has also been an extra in a few movies, including the more recent “Zombieland” and the 1980 film “The Final Countdown.” He is the only local who made it on the movie poster of “Zombieland,” but he did not appear in the film.

In 2008, Bilak toured with the reality television storm chasers, “The Twister Sisters,” on WEtv in the episode titled “Passion for Tornados.” Bilak recalls not enjoying that experience. “It is just an excuse to drive fast,” Ted said.

Former Volunteer Days: Bilak was the president of the Street Sweepers of Valdosta. This is a local program that provides positive influence through common interests for young men.

Bilak recalled a time when a young man in the Street Sweepers program wanted to drop out of high school. So Bilak took him to the Georgia Department of Labor to show him what jobs he could have if he dropped out. The young man decided to remain in school, and is now a tugboat captain in Florida.

Reminiscing on his coaching days, Bilak said, “You can sit back and watch and complain about the coaches, or you can do it yourself, and that was what I did.”

Today, it is not uncommon for Bilak to be called “Coach Ted” by one of his former players; the ages of his former players range from 21 to 26, and they always thank him because they had so much fun. For 10 minutes after soccer practice, Bilak officiated “Parents versus kids,” this was to deter parents from shouting critiques at their children during games.

“I wanted them to get out there to see how hard it was to kick the ball because it’s not always easy kicking the ball. That would also tell the kids, ‘If you can go against your parent, then you can go against any kid on the field, so don’t worry about it.’ The kids would love it, and the parents would hate it,” Bilak said.

If you ever meet Ted Bilak, he is a man filled with stories and tales from numerous life experiences. But more importantly, Bilak is a positive influence in the lives of his children, and the community.

“I don’t even drink. I don’t smoke, and I don’t do drugs. My son doesn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. That’s the role model I try to set for my daughter, Ashley,” he said.

“I live by myself, but I am never home because I am always doing something. I always have to keep active. If I don’t keep active, my brain is just going to melt,” Bilak said.

As active as he is, Ted complains that there is not enough time in the day to do all of the activities that he enjoys. Bilak averages about six hours of sleep a night.