Tennis star, former River Forest trustee Nancy Dillon dies at 87

Decades of service include being the longest-serving trustee in village history


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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

Nancy Corbett Dillon, a former tennis champion and teacher who served on the River Forest village board for more than 20 years, died Saturday at the age of 87.

"She was the most protective, caring, compassionate woman and mother that any child could hope for," said John Dillon, her youngest son.

After the death of Robert, her husband and high school sweetheart in 1956, Nancy worked two jobs to support her five sons, John Dillon said. They were all under 12 years old at the time, but her son said his mother always "had control."

Male chauvinism was at its peak during those days, he said, but his mother was a tough woman and endured it. She taught elementary and high school and found time to volunteer with the River Forest Park District.

She also taught tennis lessons most of her adult life, and was once ranked among the top tennis players in the nation herself. Dillon had attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., on a full tennis scholarship and won state, regional and national championships before having kids.

When she retired in 2009, Dillon had served the longest tenure as a trustee in the history of the village. Her son said her service on the board was one way she could give back to the community in which she had lived her whole life.

"I learned so much from Nancy, especially how to treat people with compassion and respect," said village board president John Rigas, who served more than eight years with Dillon on the board.

"She always looked at everything in her life as if the glass was always half full," Rigas said in an email Monday.

John Dillon said he couldn't tell as a child when his mother was struggling. She always had a smile and good things to say to people, he recalled. "I don't know how she did it all," he added.

Nancy Dillon is survived by her sons, 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Visitation will be held Nov. 22 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St. in Oak Park. A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Nov. 23, at St. Luke Church, 528 Lathrop Ave.

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Rex Nyquist from Des Plaines  

Posted: November 24th, 2011 8:10 PM

I knew of Nancy Dillon in the 70's through tennis. I think I only met her once, but she had such a positive personality and such a presence about her that just thinking about her inspired me to be more positive. I remember a Suburban Trib article about her (in the early 70's) about how she was an enthusiastic cheerer at OPRF basketball games. THat sort of positive presence she had really did inspire.

Cathy Adduci from River Forest  

Posted: November 22nd, 2011 9:48 PM

I had the pleasure to serve with Nancy on the River Forest Board while Nancy was Trustee and I was the Village Clerk. I learned so much from her. I learned how one can be a strong advocate in what you believe in while showing dignity and decorum. I learned if we disagree on a certain issue that we should respect each others position regardless. She was a wonderful trustee and a beautiful person! Thank you, Nancy! We will miss you!

Christine Gawne Vernon  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 11:08 PM

Nancy Dillon was a wonderful woman of remarkable accomplishment. She was a contemporary of my mother's. I would see her at the health club. She had a positive attitude, a youthful spirit, and a good word for everyone, a pleasure to know. I admired her very much. Once we were talking about the holidays and how to get it all done, the meal, etc. She told me that she would do the cooking and her boys cleaned up. No doubt they will feel this loss intensely at this time of year. I am so sorry.

Mary T Small from River Forest  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 8:48 PM

Nancy Dillon was a true Valiant Woman! From her friends at the Monday Morning Maywood McDonald's group. We give thanks for having known Nancy, her love of family, her love of life and celebrating Thanksgiving,her wonderful and funny stories of the glorious days on the tennis circuit,for her tremendous battle against cancer.

Vicki Shea from River Forest  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 5:34 PM

Nancy Dillon was a great example in so many ways: motherhood, faith, teaching,citizenshp. Even when she didn't agree with you, she was still gracious. She will be missed.

Susan Conti from River Forest  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 5:26 PM

Nancy was a rare gem; kind, tough, generous, and dedicated. I'm proud to have known her and to have had the opportunity to serve with her as Village Trustee. Because of Nancy, River Forest is a better place.She will always remain an inspiration.

Alex Jacobs from River Forest  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 4:14 PM

We should all give thanks for Nancy's service to River Forest! She cared about the Village and residents and showed that care by volunteering, working to build a better community and living a wonderful life!

Michael Gibbs from River Forest  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 3:15 PM

I want to thank Nancy's family for sharing Nancy with the rest of the Village of River Forest, our village is certainly a better place as a result of Nancy's dedication to her sport and her Village.

Daniel Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 3:09 PM

When I saw the name Nancy Dillon above the obit in the Tribune this morning my heart sank. Whether or not you agreed with how she voted, Nancy Dillon treated all citizens with respect. If only all elected officials would treat the public with such decency. I am so glad that my wife and I got a chance to thank her for all her years on the village board a few years ago during a break in a particularly contentious village board meeting.

John Rigas from River Fores  

Posted: November 21st, 2011 2:52 PM

It was an honor and pleasure to serve with Nancy on the Village Board. I learned so much from her, especially how to treat people with compassion and respect. She always looked at everything in her life as if the glass was always half full. Never complaining and always smiling. After her sons and their families and playing and teaching tennis, I believe having the opportunity to serve River Forest meant so much to her. River Forest is both sad and less without Nancy among us.

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