Senior Enrichment Services named the 90-year-old Wakeman man the Senior of the Year on Thursday.
“I sure wasn’t expecting this,” Dillon told the crowd attending the May Senior Celebration at the Huron County Fairgrounds.
Dillon’s 10 children and their families had to keep the honor a secret for two weeks. His family also kept the nomination quiet since the end of April.
“I had no idea — no idea in the world,” said Dillon, who has lived in Wakeman since about 1953.
In 1946, he married his childhood sweetheart, Moira Barrett. The couple, who grew up in Greeley, Neb., enjoyed square dancing and participating in Relay for Life. She died Jan. 26, 2015, shortly after they celebrated 68 years of marriage.
Dillion served in the U.S. Army from 1943 through 1946. He was stationed at the Naval Air Facility Adak on Adak Island in Alaska with the 331st Combat Engineer Battalion. After going to “jump school,” Dillon was discharged from the 82nd All-American Airborne.
While in the Army, he was in the middle-weight boxing recreation program. The cheerful Dillon described himself as a “160-pound fighting machine.”
“Anytime you fought, you got a three-day pass,” he said. “That was like giving somebody candy.”
Dillon, who smiled as he talked about his “full life,” was an ironworker for 42 years.
“I put up bridges and buildings all over northern Ohio, Pennsylvania (and) into Virginia,” he said.
His daughter-in-law, Marilyn, nominated him.
“His family means everything to him,” she said. “If you had a father-in-law, this is the father-in-law to have.”
Dillon has 22 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way. He also has one great-great-grandson.
He has been giving back to the Wakeman community for decades.
In the 1950s, Dillon helped build the St. Mary’s social hall. He also assisted in starting the Wakeman Little League and coached the Red Sox team. A founding member of his parish council, he helped make the Pinewood Derby race track, which remains in use. For more than 10 years, Dillon served in the auxiliary police force.
Dillon is a member of the Knights of Columbus. He helped fundraise for the Wakeman Public Library. For more than 60 years, he has been a member of the Wakeman American Legion Post 689 and also has participated in the Wakeman Memorial Day celebration.
“He bought a Kindle about three or four years ago,” said Dillon’s oldest daughter, Janet. “He took his first computer class when he was 78 (years old). He bought his first computer at 80.”
A voracious reader, Dillon enjoys mysteries and biographies. He also reads the Reflector every day.
“He’s curious about everything. He wants to know how things work,” his daughter said.
Janet, Dillon’s daughter-in-law, said it was challenge to keep the Senior of the Year nomination a secret.
“When they called and said Dad (was being named), it was just amazing,” he said.