There are very few people I would consider to be a living saint, but I knew one. Sadly for us, he’s no longer living. I met Dr. Thomas Dillon a few years ago and found him to be among the most gracious, intelligent and holy people I’d ever met.
At the Legatus Summit, held in Bermuda last February, he invited me to the dedication of the new chapel at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., where he served as president. I told him I’d try to make it, but wasn’t sure it would be possible. Within a few weeks, I found it possible and booked my flight. The chapel was dedicated with a beautiful Mass and ceremony on Saturday, March 7. I was invited to a special reception for donors and clergy that evening and a Mass and reception for alumni on Sunday.
After most of the events were over, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Dillon as he was headed to his office. He graciously took me on a tour of the administration building, explaining the architecture and giving me (and my friend Mark) a brief history of the college. He explained how many of the pictures of the new Chapel in the program book were his. He had a good number of his own photos of family and the campus in his office. Quite a talent! He took half an hour of his time to show us his office and then volunteered to give us a tour of his home–a 1929 Spanish-style hacienda built on the property by the original owners. Click on the pictures below to see a larger image.
As special and impressive as the Chapel’s dedication ceremony (celebrated by L.A.’s Cardinal Roger Mahony) was, the time I spent with Dr. Dillon that day was even more memorable. He made me (and my buddy Mark) feel like family. He wasn’t too busy on this special day to take time to make us feel at home. From what everyone tells me, he was like that with everyone–faculty, students, benefactors, clergy, groundskeepers and clerks in the local grocery store.
So it was a shock to learn that on April 15, shortly after landing in Dublin, Ireland, for a conference that Dr. Dillon died in a single-vehicle accident. His wife, Terri, was slightly injured in the crash. It brought back many of the memories of my visit to TAC and the time he took out of his busy schedule to show me around. The Ventura County Star published a well-written article on his passing and legacy.
Dr. Thomas Dillon will be missed by those of us who knew him and mourn him. However, heaven is rejoicing at their new acquisition. Through his example and intercession, we will all be better for heaven’s gain and our loss.
Requiscat in Pace. Amen.