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Billy Erby: Longtime GM employee, proud grandfather

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

One of Billy Erby's favorite pastimes was being with his grandchildren. When the Southfield resident found out he was going to be a first-time great-grandfather, he was ecstatic.

Billy Erby

"He just took great pride in being a grandfather," said Mr. Erby's daughter, Audra Erby-Leake, executive assistant to the editorial page editor of The Detroit News. "He was always there for the kids at the sporting events ... the soccer field (and) in the stands taking pictures. He was at the school concerts.

"He was definitely a big hit with the kids. He enjoyed being a grandfather. He didn't make it to see Jace (whose birth is expected in December) but he knew about him (and) was very excited to be a great-grandfather."

Mr. Erby, a U.S. military veteran and longtime General Motors employee, died Oct. 8 in his Southfield home of natural causes. He was 75.

Mr. Erby grew up in Detroit and attended Detroit Public Schools. After graduation from Northeastern High School, Mr. Erby was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1964, serving until 1966.

Equipped with the skills he acquired as a materials scheduler in the military, Mr. Erby obtained that same position with General Motors, where he was employed until he retired after a 35-year career with the automaker.

An avid roller skater since his youth, Mr. Erby enjoyed skating with family and friends.

"He could do all the moves," Erby-Leake said. "He could do all the tricks. Cha-chaing on the skates. He had me out there on the skates. We would go skating like three times a week at the different skating rinks. We were out there skating as a family."

Keith Erby said he also became a roller skater because of his dad.

"He was enamored of my skating and the things I could do," Keith Erby said. "He took my friends from the neighborhood and introduced them to roller skating."

Mr. Erby's other hobbies included watching sports. He was an avid Detroit Pistons fan. Son Keith said "he followed the Pistons from Cobo Hall to Pontiac Silverdome to The Palace of Auburn Hills  to their current home at Little Caesars Arena."

A regular basketball player himself, he joined friends to play at local gyms like the Northwest Activities Center. 

Travis Erby said his older brother was a family man who loved spending time with his loved ones.

"For 74 years, this is the kind of brother I know loved me and knew how much I loved him. We never had any arguments," said Travis Erby. "When we would get together, we would spend (time) holding each other up laughing and joking. He will always be ... in our hearts."

Keith Erby said, "My dad LOVED his family and he was wonderful with his grandchildren and even thanked my wife for them."

Survivors are Mr. Erby's daughter, Audra Erby-Leake, his son, Keith; a son-in-law, Terrien Leake; a daughter-in-law, Amy; grandchildren Austin Leake, Madison Leake, Morgan Leake, Terrien (Myles) Leake II, Cooper Erby, EllaRose  Erby and upcoming great-grandchild Jace Leake; and two brothers Travis Erby and Julius Hulbert. He also is survived by Patricia Erby, with whom he shared a 25-year-marriage, and nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. 

Arrangements were handled by Kemp Funeral home in Southfield. Due to COVID-19, the services for Mr. Erby will be private and for family only.