Obituary: Ben H. Dillard Jr.
Ben H. Dillard Jr., 80, passed away from a heart attack on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Gainesville, Florida. Ben was a resident of Windermere for more than 30 years and was a tireless and respected supporter of the arts and medical organizations of Central Florida during that time.
Ben was born at Emory University Hospital on Jan. 15, 1937, to Dorothy Bell and Benjamin Hall Dillard Sr. He was raised in DeKalb County and attended Hooper Alexander Elementary and Decatur High schools.
In 1957, he moved back to DeKalb County to work for the L.C. Warren Refrigeration Distributorship. He married Laurie Anne Eidson in 1960, in the Annie Laurie Warren Chapel at Peachtree Church in Atlanta, which was named for his wife’s great-aunt, who donated the chapel to the church.
Ben became chairman of the DeKalb County Republican Party in 1964 and subsequently became campaign manager and chief of staff to Congressman Ben Blackburn (R-4th District of Georgia), a job which he held for six years. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention twice, and the Dillards attended three Presidential Inaugurations.
Ben and Laurie had a son, Benjamin Hall III, in 1966, and a second son, Jonathan Michael, in 1967. Both sons were born in the same delivery room that their father was born in at Emory University Hospital.
The Dillards moved to Orlando, Florida, in 1976, where Ben Built a Day’s Inn franchise on Highway 192, outside the main entrance to Disney World, which he owned and operated until December 1986, when he sold it to the Chinese Government for a theme park.
During their years in Orlando, Ben and Laurie were active on many civic and charitable committees and boards of directors, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the Florida Symphony Orchestra, where they were instrumental in raising funds and were active in the business and publicity areas.
In 1990, the Dillards founded a locally based organization, which he named “BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation,” to provide social and support services to kids with cancer and related diseases and their families. The name is an analogy to a camp that supports mountain climbers in their efforts to overcome the challenges of their journeys. Ben was the first chairman of the board of the organization and has continued to support its mission.
BASE Camp is remains active in the Central Florida Community under the direction of co-founder and Executive Director Terri Jones-Robbins.
Following the sale of the motel in 1986, Ben became a commercial real estate agent for Century 21. He later became an associate broker with The Real Estate Collection in Winter Garden, Florida.
The Dillards retired to Gainesville, Florida, in 2014 to live with their son, Ben III, and his wife, Stacy.
Ben is survived by his wife and two sons, Ben Dillard, III of Gainesville, Florida, and Jon Dillard, of Maysville, Georgia; as well as six grandchildren, Elizabeth Dillard, Benjamin Dillard IV, Jonathan Dillard Jr., Jay Dillard, Athens Dillard and Clark Dillard. He is also survived by two sisters, Ara Bell Sanders, and Dale Hunt, both of Carrollton, Georgia.
A memorial service will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 3. Please contact BASE Camp CCF at (407) 673-5060 for further information.