Saturday, February 18, 2023

 Robert C. Dillingham

Robert C. Dillingham, 87, passed away peacefully on February 7, 2023. He was born in Howell, Michigan on November 6, 1935, the son of Maltire (Matt) and Irene (Kane). Brother to Richard, Anne and Charles.

In the early years, Robert was a farm boy living in an old two-story farmhouse built in 1797 by his ancestor William Dillingham. He and brother Richard did their daily chores of milking the cows before heading off to school a half mile down the road. The school was a one-room school built on land donated by one of his grandfathers. The school had two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the boys and was heated by a wood-burning stove. He and his classmates were very close and loved recess time. They would play a game called Anti-Over, picking teams and having a great time until the bell rang.

He was around 10 years old, in the fourth grade, when the farm was sold and Robert had to attend a different school in a class of children all the same age. It was a challenge to be a county boy at this school. Once he was called out by the teacher for having cow poop on his shoe and told to go outside and clean it off. Robert said he never forgot that 30 seconds of his life. He graduated from high school in 1952, along with 55 other students.

After Robert graduated jobs were hard to find. He worked for a Ford car dealership as a goffer, working six days a week for $45. Robert said he was so proud when he received his first paycheck. Then at 18 he volunteered for the draft and left for the Army on January 25, 1953. He once said that “growing up on a farm and turning 18, I thought I knew everything, but my education was about to start”. His modesty was stripped away during basic training, and he was exposed for the first time to a diverse group of men. Dad always said, “They break you down and build you back better”.

When Robert was discharged from the army four years later, he went back home. Jobs were hard to find, and he ended up re-enlisting into the Air Force. He loved the military and saw many foreign lands with endless stories. In 1965 he and his family were stationed in Florida where years later he retired from the military at around 42 years old. Robert then worked for more than 20 years with Tampa Electric, and he loved his job. Shortly after retirement and the passing of his wife, he moved to Lake Panasoffkee where he married Ms. Patsy and enjoyed a quieter way of life. There was a large parcel near his home and he and a neighbor took it upon themselves to keep it clean. Clearing out the branches and debris, mowing the grass and making it presentable. He was very proud of this little project. For a man that was up a 4am his entire life, he had to keep busy.

Robert was a compassionate, loving and hardworking man. He loved his three girls always being there for them through thick and thin. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by a brother Richard, sister Anne, daughter Billie and wife Patsy. Surviving in addition to his girls Carol and Denise are grandchildren Michele, Michael, Brian, Logan, Justin and four great grandchildren.

Burial will be at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell on February 24 at 1130am with a small gathering at Robert's house in Lake Panasoffkee afterwards.

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