Sallie Dillon has no plans to retire
By Kathy Chaffin
MOUNT ULLA ó People sometimes ask Sallie Dillon when she plans to retire from her job as financial secretary at West Rowan High School.
“I think they say it in a teasing way,” she says. “I say, ‘I’ll let you know.’ ”
At 79, Dillon has worked many years past retirement and has no plans to stop anytime soon. “I might work say, maybe to 90,” she says, “but they may retire me before then.”
Dillon, who will turn 80 in February, appears to have inherited her parents’ longevity.
Her father, Glenn Wilhelm, lived to be 93, and her mother, Ethel Eudy Wilhelm, 97.
Dillon says work keeps her active and engaged in life. “I have nobody at home,” she says. “My husband is deceased, and both girls are out on their own.
“I just like being active, and I like what I’m doing.”
As financial secretary, Dillon’s job is to pay the bills, keep up with payroll, count money collected for various events, order and hand out instructional supplies, check in substitute teachers, get ready for athletic games and make sure the deputies, referees and Rescue Squad all get paid.
The first thing Dillon does when she arrives at school at 6:30 or quarter to 7 in the mornings is check to see if there are substitutes for any teachers who are absent. “I also start the coffee for the teachers,” she says.
Her job became more challenging over the years, she says, as she has had to learn to do everything on the computer. “But really when I caught onto it, it wasn’t that hard,” she says. “That’s the reason I like it as much as I do.”
She interacts with students selling parking permits and in the hallways. Some stop to say hello when they pass by her office behind the media center.
“This is my hole,” Dillon jokes about her office. It is the space of a busy woman, filled with supplies for teachers, lots of paperwork, photos of her family and mementos of West Rowan High School, including a long row of coffee cups given to graduating classes from 1987 to 2006.
Dillon is very proud to be a Falcon. “I think it’s wonderful, don’t you?” she says of the school’s football team winning the state 3A championship for the second year in a row. “It’s been an exciting two years.”
An avid sports fan for most of her life, Dillon goes to most of West’s football games. “I enjoy the basketball games, too,” she says, “but I don’t go to them quite as often.”
Part of her job is to account for all the tickets sold at athletic events. One night last week, Dillon says there were 300 people at a basketball game. “But football could be a thousand or more,” she says. “Sports are a big thing here at West.”
Dillon doesn’t sell the tickets. “I get everything ready for somebody else to do it,” she says. “I’m just a spectator.”
Her favorite part about working at West Rowan High School is the camaraderie of the staff and teachers. “It’s a good place to work,” she says.
The staff looks out for what’s best for students, she says, and works hard to keep them interested.
Dillon says modern technology seems to have gotten students more engaged in learning. “I think it’s good because that’s what the world is about right now,” she says.
Dillon lives on Amity Hill Road in Cleveland, the same town in which she was born and raised and lived all of her life except for one year when she and her late husband lived in Washington State when he was in the Army.
Cleveland was a wonderful place to grow up, she says, and is still a great place to live. “It’s a community where everybody knows each other,” she says. “If somebody’s down and out, they’ll help you. In other words, they look after everybody.”
Growing up, her family lived a half block from Cleveland School, where she attended all 12 years. Her father ran a grocery store, and she worked there with him when she was old enough.
One of five children, she was a cheerleader in school and also played basketball. “I guess that’s why I like sports to this day,” Dillon says. “I played center, and I considered myself a pretty good basketball player.”
She met her husband, John H. Dillon Jr., who was a grade ahead of her, in school. Sallie Dillon went to work for W.E. Graham and Sons right out of high school, but was a stay-at-home mother and housewife after that.
The Dillons had two daughters, Glenda, who was born in 1953, and Barbara, in 1967.
Dillon returned to work in 1971 when then-principal George Knox offered her the secretary position at West Rowan Middle School. She later transferred to West Rowan High School.
A lifelong member of Christ Episcopal Church, Dillon is a member of the Altar Guild. She enjoys knitting and spending time with her family, which includes Glenda’s husband, David, and their son, Jonathan, who runs the Nike store in Cameron Village in Raleigh. Barbara has a 2-year-old son named William John, who they call Will.
Her family is what Dillon says she is proudest of. “I’m grateful for what I have,” she says. “I worry sometimes, but not a whole lot because I feel like what is to be will be.”
When she’s not with her family, Dillon enjoys watching sports on television. “I like most sports,” she says. “I don’t know that I have a favorite because I like to watch them all.”
She also enjoys NASCAR and says Dale Earnhardt Jr. is her favorite racer. She also pulled for his father, but says Richard Petty was her all-time favorite. “That’s who I grew up with and everything,” she says.
When asked how she would like to be remembered, Dillon says, “for trying to do a good job.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.