After the sudden loss of the Humane Educational Society's executive director, Guy Bilyeu, many of his family, friends, co-workers and animal welfare advocates have taken to social media to praise the man some call, hero. He passed away Saturday, Sept. 14, at age 54.
"It was so abrupt," said Dr. Tai Federico, a local veterinarian and HES Board president since 2006. "Basically, he was just as fit as the rest of us and he was just out for a bike ride. So the sudden nature of it is really the biggest shock."
Dr. Federico, recently appointed interim executive director, said Bilyeu turned HES into the successful operation it is today.
"Leading the Humane Educational Society for 10 years, Guy was the key man who allowed HES to go from its darkest days to its brightest days in just a few years," said Dr. Federico in a recent TV interview.
In 2005 HES won Tennessee's "Best Shelter of the Year Award." In 2006 HES was inducted into the Tennessee "Animal Hall of Fame" and received an honorable mention award from American Humane Association for "Best Practices." In 2007, his high standards were recognized with an honorable mention from Better Business Bureau, receiving a "Torch Award for Ethics."
Bilyeu started the Getting to Zero program to end euthanasia for "treatable, adoptable and trainable (TAT) shelter pets." He achieved that goal for HES in 2008. It rallied the community, staff, volunteers, donors, funders and other animal welfare groups to help him make all of Hamilton County a "no-kill" zone for TAT shelter animals. For the first time people came out in force to support Paws-in-the-Park which provides funds to ensure this work continues.
"We will do anything to help animals," said Mr. Bilyeu, in a previous TV interview. Everyone knew he meant it by his actions, words and deeds.
"He was just one of the most, warmest, genuine people I have ever known," said Dr. Federico. "We are going to work as hard as we can to make sure his legacy, the good work he has done in Chattanooga continues and grows going forward."
Mr. Bilyeu's family asked in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the Humane Educational Society in his honor.
A celebration and tribute to Guy Bilyeu will be held at Paws in the Park on Oct. 13. We want the community to "stand dog-strong for Guy" and party in the delight of all he has meant to each of us.
Because the outpouring of support is so strong, HES has set-up "The Guy Bilyeu Tribute Fund." To donate click here.