Jack Billet: In Memoriam

Jack Billet
Photo: Alan Walker

Jack Billet passed away on Wednesday, February 8, 2006.

For decades, Jack was a fixture in the bonsai community of the northeast United States . His kindness, his ready smile, and his acerbic wit endeared him to all. He inspired us with his deep passion and unwavering support for projects and people that he cared about.

I became friends with Jack as a fellow board member of the National Bonsai Foundation. At the 2000 annual NBF board meeting, Jack Billet and Dorie Froning proposed publishing a book of John Naka's sketches. John was thrilled with the idea. The board agreed and immediately approved the project.

So Jack set out to collect sketches for the book. He contacted major bonsai publications who donated advertising space for this venture. In the next few months, Jack received over 600 sketches from more than 250 people around the world. It was a privilege and honor for me to edit these sketches into a book and help Jack realize his dream.

When John Naka's Sketchbook was finished, I commented on what a shame it was that John Naka hadn't lived to see the completed book. Jack responded that “John's looking at it right now, and I'm sure he loves it.” I'm sure Jack's looking at us right now and seeing how much we treasure and miss him.

Jack Billet & John Naka
Jack Billet and John Naka inspect a five-needle pine
at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., May 2003.
Photo: Alan Walker