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Author Tony Bilek dead at age 94

Feb 11th, 2014

Anton “Tony” Bilek

Tony Bilek, 94, a longtime resident of Rantoul, Illinois, passed away on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, at his home in Rantoul, Illinois.

Tony was born April 11, 1919, in Chicago, a son of Anton and Annastazie Bilek. He married Millie Podolak in January 1946, in Chicago. She preceded him in death in July 2000.

Mr. Bilek is the author of No Uncle Sam: The Forgotten of Bataan, his memoir of survival the Bataan Death March as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

Tony came to Rantoul after he graduated from high school. Chanute was his first assignment in the United States Air Corps. Upon completing his training, he was sent to Clark Field in the Philippines, where he was a sheet metal specialist.

Six months before he was to complete his assignment, war broke out. He was captured by the Japanese and survived the Bataan Death March. He was then a prisoner of war for 3-1/2 years in Japanese POW camps. After being liberated, he came home to Chicago (1945) and, met the love of his life, Millie. He and Millie were married, started raising a family, building houses and started a greenhouse business. They raised flowers in Rantoul for 42 years and were best known for their beautiful geraniums. Tony was a pro at growing flowers.

Along with woodworking and growing flowers, he loved to travel. He and Millie traveled all over the United States and Canada in their motor home and always came back to their house on the “hill” and family. Tony’s other passion was fishing. He and his boys shared many hours out on the lake in Canada trying to see who could catch “the big one.” ·

Tony served 20 years in the United States Air Force and retired as a master sergeant; he then went on to work in civil service for 13 years. He was a life member of the Rantoul VFW and Rantoul American Legion Post 267.

Memorials may be made to the Veterans of Foreign Wars or Presence Hospice.

Condolences may be offered at

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