I have been intending to get back to blogging on a regular basis. I'm sorry that this is the first new post from me in ages.
My father became very ill shortly before Christmas. This past Friday, as my sisters, his companion Marijo, and my cousin and I held his hands, he passed away peacefully at his home.
While he was still able to talk on Tuesday, he asked me to write his obituary, as I had done for my mother. I knew without him asking that the task would fall to me, the writer in the family.
He was a truly remarkable man, and it's simply intolerable that I will never speak to him again.
Terrance Norman Dilley, 73, of Austin, died Friday, April 25 at home, surrounded by his family.
Terry was born on May 20, 1940 in Huron, SD to Norman and Marian Dilley. After moving many times throughout his childhood (his father was in the grocery business), Terry graduated from high school in Pierre, SD. He attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and St. John's University in Collegeville, MN before graduating with a degree in sociology from South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD.
Terry’s remarkable life path included a stint in the monastery. Though he never took final vows (a happy fact for his otherwise non-existent children), he was a novice in the Order of St. Benedict and lived, worked, and worshipped with the brothers at St. John's in Collegeville, as well as at Blue Cloud Abbey near Marvin, SD.
Not long after leaving monastic life, he met the first great love of his life, Ann Kelly. They married in 1965 and had three children, Sean, Erin, and Sheila. Ann preceded him in death by ten years.
To the joy of his family, in 2006 Terry met the second great love of his life, Marijo Alexander. She was his cherished companion for the next eight years, and she was at his side when he passed away. Simply put, they made a great team.
Terry was a man of effortless charm, wicked humor, and profound erudition on nearly any topic in philosophy, art, literature, or history. He loved languages and devoted himself to studying German, French, Latin, and Greek. He was also a devoted fan of Yiddish and peppered his speech with colorful expressions that were no part of his South Dakota upbringing.
For many years it was rare to see Terry without a camera in his hands. Using his antique Leica or trusty Nikon, he documented everything around him. Along with his friend Jack Herzog, Terry tramped the grounds of the Hormel Nature Center, snapping gorgeous black and white photos that would be at home in any Ansel Adams collection.
Tennis was another important part of Terry's life. Never fleet of foot, he was, however, a master of the off-speed slice and the crafty angled drop-shot. He and Dave Dickinson co-coached the college tennis team for years, and they made a formidable doubles duo themselves in their dashing "Gilligan's Island" caps.
A drummer from age thirteen, Terry had to be driven to his first gigs by his parents. (He was mortified.) He often performed in Austin, accompanying the locally celebrated Spamettes and playing in productions at the college. He didn't particularly love musical theater, but he was always happy to lend his "chops" if he was needed.
Above all, Terry was a teacher. Teaching was his life's mission, and he never tired of it. He joined the faculty of Austin Junior College before the current building had even been constructed, and over the next 48 years he taught thousands of students how to think critically and read hungrily. If you have ever lived in Austin, and you know logic, you likely have Terry to thank.
In 2013 Terry received an honorary doctorate in recognition of his unflagging dedication to his students and to Riverland Community College. Never one to preen, he limited his speech to a tight 60 seconds and credited his success to his students and his colleagues, who he said inspired him to come to work each day.
He will be keenly missed by those students and his second family, the faculty and staff at Riverland. "Mr. Dilley" will not soon be forgotten, nor is he likely to be matched.