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Self-proclaimed ‘adrenaline junkie’ finds rush restoring churches

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VIOLA, Illinois -- Daniel Billings, AKA "The Steeple Jack" says he's an "adrenaline junkie" who loves his job.

The Galesburg man has been in the restoration business for 40 years and spends most of the year traveling for work.  Billings said he's worked on hundreds of steeples across the country.

In mid-July 2018, Billings picked up a job closer to home, restoring the First Apostolic Church of Viola.

"She was in bad need of restoration," Billings said. As part of the project, the church was painted, roof, siding and vent work was done and the bell tower was restored.

Billings said his favorite part of any job is the climb.

"It's wonderful," he said, "you get great views, my office is up in the air, I've got a penthouse office, so I don’t have to worry about it."

By the middle of the year, Billings had traveled to 33 states to repair 22 steeples.  After his Viola job, he said he was heading to North Carolina and Florida. And after that, he had about 130 job requests waiting.

"I guess I’m the craziest," he said, "I do the most dangerous jobs out there, the more gnarly the more scary they are, they call me."

Billings said it's the adrenaline that keeps him coming back, but it's what he experiences hundreds of feet off the ground that fuels his passion.

"When I'm up there, you know, it's just me and my Lord's angels up there," he said. "I talk to the steeple and I say, "Hey, I'm coming to dance with you, I'm Daniel, and I'm going to make everything better."

He described the feeling of bringing a steeple back to its original glory as "an honor."

Through the years Billings has documented his work and adventures in three books; one is called "Through the Eyes of a Steeple Jack" and another is called "Saving Midwest Treasures," which will be available later in 2018.  He also is working on a TV show to document his projects.

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