Billy Brescia, who sold homes in the Columbus market for more than 60 years and was beloved by those who knew him, died this morning at his Columbus home. He was to turn 96 years old on Feb. 17.
“He was the consumate gentleman and real-estate professional that everybody looked up to and admired. In the real-estate business, he was everybody’s hero and mentor. It’s a sad moment for us,” said Jack Key, a partner in the Columbus company where Brescia worked on Whitesville Road, Coldwell Banker/Kennon, Parker, Duncan & Key.
It was in 2011 that Brescia was chosen Realtor of the Year by the Georgia Association of Realtors. In November of that year, the Columbus Board of Realtors named its headquarters building after him.
“He was at work yesterday, looking good and just as sharp as a tack,” said Key. “He was reading his newspaper at home and just passed away. He was still so lucid and still all together and had all of his faculties. And, physically, he was still pretty fit at that age and still able to drive and get around, so he was mobile.”
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Coldwell Banker Realtor Smokey Bowers worked closely with Brescia, ever since entering the real estate profession nearly 24 years ago. He said Brescia took him under his wing and was like a father to him.
“He’s one of the finest men that I’ve ever known, and would do anything in the world for anyone,” Bowers said. “He assisted a lot of people in buying and selling homes, and was so active in the real-estate community.”
Affectionately called “Mr. Billy” by his colleagues for his mild-mannered nature and easy-going smile, the diminutive Brescia had been selling homes for 65 years. Through that time, he witnessed booming markets, fluctuating interest rates, deep recessions and euphoric rises in consumer confidence.
He sold his first house near Jordan High School for $8,500 in 1947, then a part-time agent who would eventually transition from his textile management job.
He was active at the state level, working with legislative and political action committees. He served as president of the Georgia Association of Realtors in 2001.
The son of a wholesale grocery salesman, Brescia grew up in a modest home. Jobs included working in a soda shop, selling Saturday Evening Posts and delivering the Ledger and the Enquirer on his bicycle. In 1941, he wed his sweetheart, Claudia Childs, a union that would create three children — David, Becky and the oldest, William, who lost his life in a tragic harvesting machine accident at age 13.
“You always have that void,” Brescia said in an October 2011 interview.
Asked then, at age 94, why he still works instead of taking it easy, Brescia smiled and replied simply and softly, “I enjoy it, and I want to eat. I’m going to stay with it.”
Brescia is survived by his wife, Claudia, and his children. Key said funeral arrangements are pending.
Age: 95, born Feb. 17
Hometown: Columbus; graduate of Columbus Industrial High School
Family: Claudia, wife of 70 years, and three children — William, David and Becky
Military: Served as corporal in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II (1942-1945), with duty stations in Gulfport, Miss. (aircraft mechanic school), and at Maxwell Field in Alabama
Career: Began in shipping department at Archer Mills in 1935, retiring in 1970; worked part-time in real estate starting in 1947, selling his first home, then going full-time in 1970
Outside of sales: Georgia Association of Realtors Political Action Committee (GARPAC) and Political/Legislative Affairs Committee, co-chair of both for 2010-2011; Realtors Extending a Caring Hand Committee; Multiple Listing Service Committee; work with Boy Scouts, Little League Baseball, School Safety Patrol, Columbus Public Safety Board and American Legion
Awards: Received Golden Rule Award in Columbus in 1984; named Realtor of the Year in Columbus in 1991; Dick McCudden Award for Exceptional Support of the GARPAC in 2000; Columbus Board of Realtors Community Service Award in 2003; appointed GAR director for life in 2006; Billy Brescia Day declared Oct. 3 by Mayor Bob Poydasheff in 2006; granted emeritus status by National Association of Realtors in 2006; and honored with resolution by Georgia House of Representatives in 2009; lifetime member of Circle of Excellence