CRESTVIEW — Longtime local business, church and community leader Billy Teel died Monday at the age of 81. As one of the movers and shakers behind Crestview’s 1950s business renaissance, Teel earned the affection and respect from the area business community.

CRESTVIEW — Longtime local business, church and community leader Billy Teel died Monday at age 81.

Born in Opp, Ala., in 1931, he moved with his parents, Dewey and Pauline Teel, and younger brother, Bob, to Crestview in 1944, played football, baseball and basketball at Crestview High School and performed in the school band.

“I started playing football the year after Billy,” fellow Crestview High graduate Joe Curenton said. “We were good friends. He was a well-liked person.”

After graduating from Crestview High, Teel played baseball for Florida State University, from which he graduated with a business degree before entering the U.S. Air Force. He served close to home as an air traffic controller at Eglin Air Force Base.

Gaining professional certifications in real estate, he founded Teel and Waters Real Estate and the Crestview State Farm insurance office, at which he served 54 years.

Teel’s real estate and property expertise, and his designation as a member of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers made him an expert court witness in real estate valuation cases. For the respect he earned within the industry, his friend and colleague Mike Chesser referred to Teel as “the dean of real estate in Okaloosa County.”

Teel’s influential role behind Crestview’s 1950s business renaissance earned him the area business community’s affection and respect. He helped found the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, for which he served as president from 1959 to 1960.

“He is one of the few icons of our community who built Crestview for what it is now,” chamber executive director Wayne Harris said. “We call them The ’56ers. They were a core group of leaders, of which Billy was one of them. They were the number of people who were the leading business folks who started building our community.”

People admired Teel for his work ethic and dedication to his community, area historian Betty Curenton said.

“Billy was a self-made man,” she said. “He didn’t just have his money handed to him. He got it the hard way. He worked for it.”

“He was a quiet leader,” Harris said. “He was involved in a lot of things but he wasn’t one who made a lot of noise. He worked hard to succeed and he helped build our community.”

Teel was involved at the First Baptist Church, of which he was a lifelong member, Joe Curenton said. He served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher over the years.

Teel was a private pilot and supporter of local fine and performing arts. He served on the First National Bank of Crestview’s board of directors, was active in the local Kiwanis Club and was a mentor to many area business owners. In addition to his brother Bob, Clara Jo Teel, his wife of 60 years, their grown children Ann Teel Hatcher and Bruce Teel and their families, survive him.

Funeral services were Thursday at Whitehurst-Powell Funeral Home in Crestview. Billy Teel was laid to rest at Liveoak Park Memorial Cemetery.