(Earl) Lee Bilheimer passed away peacefully at home in Tucson, Arizona, on October 28, 2013. He was 85. He was greatly loved by his wife, Wendy, daughter Marian, and her husband Randy Goodwin, son John, and his wife Catherine, granddaughters Owen and Bryn Goodwin, and Elena and Sinclaire Lee Bilheimer.
Lee was born in Bonne Terre Missouri, to Nellie Lee Williams and Earl Leo Bilheimer. He attended elementary and high school in the small mining town of Leadwood, Missouri and grew up hunting and playing basketball and baseball for his school and “town teams.” His father was a mining
engineer who graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and was an executive with St. Joseph Lead Company. Lee obtained a B.Sc. in Science and Mathematics from the University of Michigan, graduating with honors in 1949. Seeking to gain experience in the mining industry, he worked as
an Assistant Geologist on the Mississippi for the St. Joseph Lead Company in Herculaneum, Missouri. He then took a summer job as an underground “mucker” in the Empire Mine in Grass Valley, California, before attending the Missouri School of Mines in Rolla, Missouri. He graduated in 1952.
After graduation, Lee took a job as an Assistant Mine Captain in upstate New York but after having worked in Grass Valley, he had gained a love for the west which never waned. He returned to work at the Empire Mine in 1954 – this time as an Engineer. He frequently operated the hoist to let the maintenance people down as far as 8,500 feet in the inclined shaft. In his own words: “When a crew of men are riding the man-truck down the shaft for almost a mile, and you are operating the hoist, it concentrates the mind.” Lee helped shut the Empire Mine down in 1956.
In 1955, Lee married Ruth Libbey of Nevada City. They lived in a house on the Empire Mine property until 1956. After working in mining exploration in Colorado, where his daughter Marian was born, and as the Head of the Mining Research Department in Bonne Terre, Missouri, where his son John was born, in 1966, Lee moved his family to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Lee began his Canadian mining career with Placer Development and then Brameda Resources. In 1970 he took a job with Teck Corporation (which later acquired Cominco Limited) and rose to become a Vice President of Cominco Alaska and then Vice President of Construction for Teck Corporation.
He retired from Teck Resources in 1993 and began private consulting. During his career he was involved in mine operations in Montana, Missouri, Oregon, Colorado, New York, Alaska, Mexico, Chile, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Australia, and the Yukon. He frequently travelled to Mexico and Chile consulting on mining projects until he was 80.
Finding himself alone in later life, he married Wendy Wedge, the niece of the founder of Teck Resources. She remained his loyal and loving partner for over 20 years. Lee adored his four granddaughters and they returned his love. He and Wendy cherished their granddaughters’ annual visits to “the cottage” on a lake in British Columbia.
In his memoir Lee wrote: “There is a special bond between people engaged in wresting metals from the earth for the benefit of society and the common good. It has been a great ride! … (However) my career, with all its successful projects and adventure, would mean little but for the love and affection of those closest to me.” He will be greatly missed.
A memorial service will be held on January 4, 2014, 3:00 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, Nevada City, California, with a reception to follow. If desired, memorial donations to the American Heart Association or a charity of your choice would be appreciated by the family.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User