An Extraordinary Life
Reverend Daniel Clay Dillon transferred to heaven, quietly in his sleep, on Easter Sunday, April 17th, 2022. He was born in Dayton, Ohio on January 22, 1948 to Robert Clay Dillon and Lorna Joan Dillon (b. Snell). Dan grew up loving school, learning, and outdoor adventures including archery. He greatly enjoyed hunting and fishing with his Dad. Though challenged with cerebral palsy, he led a life of scholarship, physical independence, and productivity that few unchallenged individuals can surpass.
Dan was a deep thinker, interested in a wide range of subjects from mathematics to foreign language to theology. Graduating valedictorian from North Miami High School, Dan entered Indiana Central College (now University of Indianapolis) as a math major. Quickly bored with mandatory freshman coursework previously mastered, he switched his major to German and developed a high proficiency. Dan focused on English literature during his senior year and won campus acclaim for a short story capturing the pain disabled persons feel when the average individual treats them as damaged and incapable beings. Ever the humorist, Dan anonymously wrote a hilarious satirical column entitled “Dear Dooley” for the school newspaper which had school administrators furiously trying to identify the author for suspension.
Dan was always a strong advocate for the disadvantaged. After college he worked for Indiana Rehabilitation Services as a Disability Determination Adjudicator, helping individuals qualify for benefits. Later Dan worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Indiana Department of Vocational Rehabilitation assisting individuals with blindness or low vision enter the workforce. If you were a blind person in Indiana looking for employment, Dan was your man! When he started, he asked his supervisor to give him the most challenging cases. As Dan explained it “If I fail, well…so has everyone else. If I succeed, it will only build my reputation.” His reputation grew. During this time the most significant development of his life occurred. He met a co-worker who became the love of his life, Lenore Allen. He “eventually qualified for the job,” as he would say, and they were wed on July 1, 1978.
Dan neared burnout from the emotional drain of the vocational rehabilitation service and decided to change careers. In true Dan style he became the first stand-up comic who had to sit down for the entire act. He once said, “If a friend told me to break a leg as I entered the stage, I would turn and say, ‘no one will notice’.” Dan worked his way up from opener to middle act, and in 1985 won Showtime’s Funniest Person in Indiana. Often performing in dinner theaters, his stated goal was to “make them laugh so hard they blow mashed potatoes out their noses.” In 1995 he was offered a comedy headliner act and turned it down. God had called Dan to the ministry. When asked by a promoter why he was leaving comedy he answered, “Because Jesus wants me too!”
Seven years later he had completed an extensive theological course of study, was ordained as a Nazarene minister, and began his pastoral work. His personal interactions and sermons were notable for ‘real-deal’ honesty and empathetic compassion. It has been said of his sermons “They put a thinking cap on your head and a searchlight on your heart.” His comedian-self wasn’t lost though…spontaneous laughter was frequently heard in church.
Eventually Dan and Lenore were called as missionaries to South Korea to teach at Korea Nazarene University. Lenore, being blind and concerned about Dan’s wheelchair mobility, was nervous about the calling at first, worried Korea might be difficult to physically navigate, not having curb cuts and other construction accommodations for people with disabilities. Dan answered, “We serve Jesus. He was a carpenter! Who knows more about curb cuts than Jesus, the carpenter?” Their mission in Korea was successful. Lenore taught in the Rehabilitation Department and Dan taught English, and they both led Bible studies at the Ya Dom Church.
Dan is survived by his wife Lenore of Indianapolis, IN; his two sisters, Molly Dillon of Uniondale, IN and Marjorie Dillon of Sacramento, CA; his brother, Robert Dillon of Greenville, SC; and many individuals in Christ worldwide who love him as a brother.
Dan joyously shared his life with the love of his life, Lenore, for 43 years. All that know them are amazed and inspired by their life together. He loved and cared deeply for his family and friends. He advocated for the disadvantaged. He was passionate for the lost. He led church groups to improve neighborhoods, held block parties to bring friends to the lonely, brought pizza to shut-ins because he wanted to share Christ’s love. Sadly, some overlooked the man because of his disability. For those who knew Dan, that was just impossible.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 21, 2022 at 2:00 PM EST at Southport Church of the Nazarene, 920 E. Southport Road, Indianapolis, IN 46277. The service will be streamed live on YouTube at Southport Church of the Nazarene and will be available for viewing later.
Dinner will follow the service. Please RSVP to Dfamily1919@gmail.com by May 12, 2022 if you plan to attend the dinner.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations for the Korea Nazarene University Rehabilitation Department. Make checks payable to Southport Church of the Nazarene noting “For KNU,” and mail to Southport Church of the Nazarene, for KNU, 920 E. Southport Road, Indianapolis, IN 46277.
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