Geraldine Dillon

September 29, 1923 – March 24, 2015

GerryGeraldine Rose Berry Dillon was born on September 29th in 1923 to her loving parents Ivor and Grace Berry in the small village of South Branch, in northern Michigan. She was the third of eight children, with four sisters and three brothers. Her parents owned the only grocery store in the village which also served as the local post office and general congregation place for hunters and fisherman.

The Berry family was an exceptionally close knit family, warm and supportive of each other, whose familial ties lasted throughout their lifetimes. Gerry would tell the story of how the children would gather in the home to do their homework, with their mother Grace overseeing all. It has been frequently noted that all of the Berry childrens’ penmanship were similar and mirrored the penmanship of their mother whom they copied. Some of her favorite memories from childhood were of the family gathered around the radio, listening to the Detroit Tigers baseball games. Gerry and her siblings typically kept their own statistics on the game and could tell the details of each inning as the game progressed.Geraldine - May, 1940

Gerry graduated from Mid Agricultural High School in 1940. In the year after high school, she performed post graduate studies which provided her with skills for the workplace. She moved to Detroit and worked for three years at the Soss Manufacturing Company in the cost accounting department.

Our Marine II in Camp LeJeune; 1944Everything changed for Gerry when her oldest brother Larry, an Army Air Corps Officer, was killed in an automobile accident. She felt that it was her duty to replace Larry in the service and accordingly, joined the U.S. Marine Corps. in April of 1944. A famous Dillon family story is that at 5ft 2in., Gerry was too short to join the military, so when it came time for her height to be measured, she hitched her heels up on the baseboard of the wall and cleared the minimum height by a half inch. This is just one example of just how determined a person Gerry was.

During the two years and three months of Gerry’s military service at Cherry Point, North Carolina, she served as a clerk-typist in a payroll department and as a driver of light trucks. Because of her height, or lack thereof, she had her own blocks that she could attach to the pedals of the trucks that she drove so that she could reach the pedals. A very determined woman she was!

When Gerry was discharged from the Marines in the summer of 1946, she went home Dillon Scan 216 webto South Branch where she nursed her mother Grace through a serious illness for the next year. When  her mother regained her health, Gerry went back into the workforce in Detroit to financially prepare herself for her college education. In June of 1946, utilizing the benefits from the G.I. Bill and her savings, she applied to and was accepted by the University of Michigan where two of her younger brothers were already in attendance. It should be pointed out that of the eight Berry children, seven graduated from college.

While at the U of M, she met, then dated and eventually married Bob Dillon in 1951. Subsequently, she became pregnant and delivered her first son Keith in April of 1952 before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education in June of 1953.

That one candle is pretty interesting. Apr. 17, 1953After graduation, Gerry and Bob relocated to Kenmore, WA where Gerry gave birth to their second child, Kathy in 1955. During the mid-1950’s, Gerry and Bob met and became friends with Rod and Barb Loveless. Rod and Bob worked together to design and build the new Dillon family home in 1957. In 1959, the family grew when Gerry gave birth to their second son, Chris.

When Gerry was approaching 40 years old, she began taking a tailoring/seamstress class so that she could make clothing for herself and the family. She became mildly frustrated with the effort, because as she was working on new garments it turned out that her measurements were changing. Shortly thereafter, their third son Larry was born in 1963!

It is fairly common for women to be devoted to their children, but with Gerry it was even more so. Fiercely protective, supportive and deeply loving, Gerry insured that her children grew up in a very warm and nurturing environment. Gerry and Bob raised their family in the First Baptist Church of Kirkland where Gerry utilized her faith and her educational skills to design and implement curriculums for Sunday school and for Vacation Bible School. She never joined the mainstream workforce as a working mom, instead choosing to remain committed to these church programs for many decades.

Gerry always made sure that her home was a welcoming place for not only her 1979 Christmaschildren, but for all of the other children in the neighborhood. As such, the Dillon household and backyard became a congregation place for the neighbor kids. The top of the Dutch door into the backyard was always open, and Kool-Aid was passed freely to all who got thirsty while playing in the yard and popular tree camps. A testament to Gerry’s warm and caring nature, as the Dillon kids grew into teenagers and young adults, their friends would come over just to visit with Gerry, even when her own children weren’t home.

Gerry joined several local women’s bowling teams and was a competitive bowler during the 70’s and 80’s. It was during this time that she saw her daughter Kathy married to Stan and son Keith married to Freddie. It should be noted that Gerry embraced these new additions to her family with the same deep love, acceptance and affection that she gave her own children.

Gerry was a very big fan of local sports teams including the Seattle Sonics and the University of Washington football team. She quickly embraced the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners when they joined the local sports scene in the mid-1970’s. In her later years, Gerry’s clear favorites were the Seattle Mariners and the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team. As she did in her youth, Gerry always kept stats on all the games that she watched and could clearly voice her opinion on each team member and their performance history. At any time during games she could give family members who called the rundown on the scores and highlights.

Jason, Eric, Gerry editedAs committed as Gerry was to her children, she was equally committed to her two grandsons, Jason and Eric. She was heavily involved with both of them as young boys, teaching them to read and ride bicycles. She was also committed to her two granddaughters, Amy and Kaysee, and was honored and excited when both asked her if she would take them for their Driver’s License tests as 16 year olds, using her sporty Nissan 300ZX. She was the quintessential doting grandmother and loved her grandchildren deeply.

As her children grew into adults and became involved with their own lives, Christmas dinner became a central family event each year. Gerry would cook extravagant and elaborate dinners to feed the extended family. Including an occasional family friend, it was not uncommon to find 14-16 people at the dinner tables. Beginning in the late 80’s, Keith and Stan started taking over the food preparation duties that included exceedingly large prime rib roasts and exceptionally large turkeys, while Kathy and Freddie took on the preparation of the home for evening celebrations. These family gatherings were always filled with joy and laughter and were always centered on Gerry.

In 1991 at the age of 68, Gerry became seriously ill with a genetically inherited liver disease that had already claimed two of her siblings. With her liver and kidneys rapidly failing, she was flown to San Francisco where on Christmas Eve, with only a short time to live, she received a liver transplant and a new kidney. This surgery was predicted to extend her life for an additional 6-7 years. In truth, it gave her more than an additional 24 years of life. A family story is that as her new liver adapted to her body, her original two kidneys came back to full functionality, giving her three operational kidneys. So, for the rest of her life, Gerry lamented that she couldn’t stray too far from a restroom.

In 1997, Gerry and her grandson Eric were in an automobile accident caused by another driver running a red light. Though nobody was hurt beyond some bruises, Gerry was shook, as this was the first accident of her life. She decided that she somehow should have been able to prevent the accident. As is typical of Gerry and her strong will, she hung up her keys a few short weeks later and never drove again.

Bob & Gerry002 webIn retirement, Gerry and Bob traveled extensively in their motorhomes. She loved visiting her mother, brothers and sisters in Michigan and California. She enjoyed sightseeing and visiting new places. She also despaired at Bob’s sometime propensity to drive long distances on a daily basis.

Gerry retained all of her personality, keen intelligence and delightful wit until very recently. She had several health events beginning in 2009 that brought obstacles to her life. The death of her youngest son, Larry in 2011 hit her very hard. A stroke in 2014 shortly after the death of her husband also took its toll. Throughout it all, Gerry remained always in good spirits, humorous yet stoic until the very end. During the last three weeks of her life, when it was obvious that she was in her final decline, all of her family members had multiple opportunities to visit with her, exchanging memories and vows of love. She passed on during the evening of March 24th while being held by her daughter, Kathy.

Gerry was the center and the rock of the extended Dillon family. She was the epitome Gerry 2009 webof grace, integrity, commitment, faith and abiding love. In return, she was deeply loved, trusted and respected by everyone in the family. The depth and breadth of her impact on each family member’s life cannot be expressed. Her loss is a great one and she leaves a large void in everyone’s lives. Everyone in the family is deeply grateful that she was able to be a part of our lives for so very long.

There is no doubt but that the Lord welcomed her into his arms.

Gerry was preceded in death by her siblings Ruth, Larry, Ivor, Elaine, Roger and Shirley, her husband, Bob and her youngest son, Larry. She is survived by her sister Gloria, her son Keith Dillon and his wife Freddie, her daughter Kathy JauJou and her husband Stan, son Chris Dillon, grandsons Jason and Eric, granddaughters Amy and Kaysee, several great grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews and their families.

A memorial service celebrating Gerry’s life will be held on Friday, April 24th at 11:00 AM at Lakeside Christian Church (formerly First Baptist Church of Kirkland) located at 701 First Street, Kirkland, WA 98033. Afterwards, there will be a short period of mingling for family and guests accompanied by coffee, juice and cookies.

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2 Responses to “Geraldine Dillon”

  • ed clark says:

    Hey I have fond memories of being one of the latch key kids. thank you Mrs. Dillon!

  • Debra O'Brien says:

    This is an absolutely wonderful testament to my Aunt Gerry!!! One thing that I wanted to add, was that at 19 years old, my Mom (and her sister) Gloria traveled to Washington to be part of Kathy’s wedding. I still have the pictures and memories that will last forever. I even have pictures of her sons Chris and Larry and I packed into a photo booth taking silly pictures! One thing I will always remember is how much my Mom’s (Gloria’s) voice sounded exactly like Aunt Gerry. It was uncanny. Rest is peace Aunt Gerry – you lived a wonderful life and we are all the more grateful for it!

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