Jonathan David Billheimer

Published 1:28 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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Surrounded by his loving family in his beloved mountain home, Jonathan David Billheimer, aged 54, passed away peacefully in Zionville, N.C., on April 26, 2024, following a short battle with cancer.

Born on February 20, 1970, to Carroll and Carol Billheimer, Jonathan turned his love of learning, storytelling, and intellect into his life’s work as a talented and devoted educator. He was a graduate of University High in Johnson City, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BS History), and East Tennessee State University (Master of Arts, History). From an early age, Jonathan displayed a deep appreciation for history, encouraged by his mother who made all the Billheimer children visit historical monuments on family trips.

Jonathan served as a Senior Lecturer in the History Department at Appalachian State University for over 25 years, influencing thousands of students during his tenure. His specialties included Early Civilizations, World Empires, Revolutions and Revolutionary Social Movements, and East Asian History and Civilizations. Students frequently described him as the best professor they’d ever had, despite his rigorous curriculum and scrupulous grading. He was a passionate educator and selflessly devoted his time to enriching the lives of his students. Jonathan knew that hard work and tenacity would breed success in his students and commonly joked that he “did not mess around.”

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Jonathan loved to travel and spent many summers in Europe, researching his topics up-close, knowing that such time spent made him a better teacher as he used his travels to bring his lectures to life. At the time of his death, he had trips to Sicily and Dubai planned. His beautiful home paid homage to his world travels, meticulously designed with items collected during his many adventures around the world. While visiting Jonathan’s house, guests could not only share in the fruits of his amazing culinary skills but experience the world through his extensive collection of curios. However, as much as he loved to travel, there was no place more beautiful to him than his view of the Appalachian Mountains from his home nestled atop Rich Mountain.

While completing an internship at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Jonathan lived with a family from Afghanistan. He had the unique opportunity to interview the exiled Afghan King, Mohammed Zaher Shah, which incited his passion project to pen the history of Afghanistan. In recent years, Jonathan returned to this subject having even traveled to Afghanistan. Up until three days before his death, he was fervently collecting information for the book he was writing.

Outside of his academic and professional pursuits, Jonathan’s life was hallmarked by a love of the outdoors wherein he loved mountain biking, hiking, and animal rescue. Living in rural North Carolina afforded him the opportunity to rescue many animals left near his home. His love of history and animals was married with beloved dogs named Brutus, Achilles, and Astra. He loved live performance, both theatre and music, and was an avid reader with intense intellectual curiosity. Jonathan was a devoted son, brother, and uncle, prioritizing quality time spent with family. In his words, they were “always worth the trip.” Jonathan was saved at an early age at Pinecrest Baptist Church and attended Downtown Christian Church in Johnson City.  

Jonathan David Billheimer was preceded in death by his father, Carroll Billheimer, on June 8, 2021. He is survived by his loving mother, who called him every night, Carol Billheimer, three siblings, older sister, Heather (Unicoi, Phil Doriot), older brother, Brent (Johnson City, Wesley), and younger brother Bradley (Burnsville, N., Heather Cheri), two nieces, Caroline Furlong (Brunswick, GA, Ross) and Charlotte Anne Boyd (Atlanta, GA), one grand-nephew, Banks Thomas Furlong (Brunswick, GA), and a large extended family. Jonathan’s influence and significance will transcend his death through his loved ones and his cherished students.

The family will receive friends on Saturday, May 4, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Tetrick Funeral Services, Johnson City, with the funeral service to follow.

In honor of Jonathan’s work and devotion, a memorial scholarship for students majoring in History will be established at Appalachian State University. Donations may be sent to the History Department.

Sincere thanks go to his life-long friend, Dr. Anne-Corinne Beaver, for her loving care and support during his short hospital stay at Watauga Medical Center, in Boone, NC, and to the team of doctors at Duke University Hospital.

This obituary was lovingly written by his mother, Carol Billheimer, niece Charlotte Anne Boyd, and special friend, Phil Doriot.

Memories and condolences may be shared at

Tetrick Funeral Services, 3001 Peoples Street, Johnson City, TN 37604, is honored to serve the Billheimer family. (423) 610-7171