Jaroslaw Bilyj of Grand Island, a retired stationary engineer for the state and leader in the local Ukrainian-American community, died Tuesday in his home. He was 89.
Born in Dublana, Ukraine, Mr. Bilyj moved to this country in 1946 and became a U.S. citizen in 1954. Over the years, he assisted many Ukrainian immigrants in settling in Western New York, helping them to obtain employment and citizenship. He also was a strong promoter of Ukrainian cultural traditions.
Mr. Bilyj was an active member of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, where he also was a member of the church's building fund when the church moved from Germain Street in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood to its present location at 3275 Elmwood Ave. in Kenmore.
Mr. Bilyj was a member of the Boyan Choir at his church. He was a longtime member and former president of the Ukrainian American Civic Center on Military Road in Black Rock.
He was a past board member of the Ukrainian Home Dnipro Credit Union on Genesee Street on Buffalo's East Side, and he was politically active on behalf of his ethnic community.
He also was a member of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, an international organization dedicated to supporting the interests of ethnic Ukrainians in America.
Mr. Bilyj worked briefly at General Motors' Chevrolet plant in the Town of Tonawanda and Ford Motor Co.'s Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg before taking a job in the 1960s with Railway Express, the predecessor of Federal Express. In the 1970s, he began working as a stationary engineer for the state Department of Mental Hygiene. He retired in the early 1980s.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Elsie Stewart; a daughter, Diane Thompson; a son, Mark; and a sister, Hala Hrytsyna.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:45 a.m. today in St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church.