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April 2, 2018

Ron Dill: There and Back Again

Ronald Dill, 94, a resident of Willow Brook Christian Home, was born on a farm north of Worthington, on the same land where the Home now stands. 

“I’m back living on the farm,” Dill says. “This is home.”

We sat down with Dill to talk about his life, from his childhood on the family farm to his service in World War II and his successful career and family.

What was life like on the farm?

My grandfather bought the property in 1893. We had 64 acres and grew wheat, soybeans and corn, and we had a dozen cows. From the time I was seven or eight, I got up at dawn to help milk the cows. Herb James came by every day in his old Chevy truck to pick up our milk and deliver it to Columbus, where they bottled it. This was before refrigeration. 

What was your family like?

I had a good mom and dad, Lynas and Lela Dill, and three brothers, including my twin brother Donald.  We were close to my grandparents, who had a 90-acre farm on Morse Road. I loved spending time with them. 

What did you do after high school?

I graduated from Worthington High School in 1942 and went to work for Worthington Savings Bank, until I got drafted in January 1943. I was in the service until December 1945.

What was your war-time experience like?

I was a staff Sergeant with the Army Signal Corps, with a company of 120 men who established communications as we advanced in the battle lines. The first place we landed was Casablanca, then we went all over North Africa. We traveled on boxcars called “forty and eights.” They were big enough for 40 men or eight horses. We went through the mountains and huge tunnels, so big you could almost suffocate. Then we moved onto Italy, France and Germany, and we were about to be shipped to China when they dropped the atomic bomb, and the war ended. 

Original nursing home built on the Dill land, expanded and renovated as Willow Brook Christian Home.
assisted living at willow brook christian home resident
Ron Dill working a jigsaw puzzle with aide, Perpetual Opoku

What did you do when you returned form the war?

I went back to the bank, but I wasn’t making much money, so I took a job with a paper company in Sandusky, Ohio, that later was bought by Westvaco. I stayed with Westvaco until I retired in 1989. I built the business from selling $70,000 worth of packaging a month to $1 million a month.  

Did you marry and have children?

Yes, I married Mary Lou Smith in 1952 and we had four children, Carol, Nancy, Linda and Ron.  My wife was a realtor and had many friends. She lived with me at the Home until she passed away last year.   

How did Willow Brook Christian Home come to be built on your property?

In the 1960s, my dad sold some of his land for construction of a nursing home. A few years later Willow Brook took over that nursing home. In the 1980s, my dad sold more land because we only had 64 acres, and we weren’t big enough to continue farming. My father had lifetime rights to his house and one acre, so that was good. He stayed there until he died in 1990.

How has the landscaped changed?

Well, Route 23 was a mud road when I was young.  And there’s a big shopping center where there used to be farmland and an orchard, Brown Fruit Farm, which had 100 acres. You could buy their apples at the local train station.  And where Taco Bell now stands, that was where our farmhouse was. It’s all changed.  

You’ve lived a long life. What is your advice about how to be happy?

Just be honest with each other and don’t get yourself into trouble by going the wrong way. Don’t fall in with the wrong group because when they get in trouble, you are in trouble, too.  In my job as a salesman, I helped people. If I saw I had something better to give them, I’d do that, and I’d get the business. I was honest.