Memories of Doug Dill




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Many of my memories of Doug Dill are second-hand. Jan has told me many stories of growing up in West Virginia and Fresno, and of her college years in Alaska in which Doug featured prominently.

But my own memories of Doug start when I met him and Sheila for the very first time two days before my marriage to Jan. I barely knew what to expect. I had no idea what he and Sheila would think of me. However, he was pleasant enough (didn't even threaten me with death), and welcomed me to the family. I don't particularly remember what was said, although I'm sure I made a fool of myself as usual. And, to Doug's credit, that never even once came back to haunt me. A snapshot buried in a box or album somewhere commemorates this meeting; a photo of my parents' dining room with Doug, Sheila, Jan, and a few of my other family members around a very small cake.

Subsequent years built on that first meeting. There were Kith & Kin reunions in alternate years, starting at Camp Fresno when Bryan was very young. At the next one, Melody was a baby. A crying baby. A. Crying. Baby. But Bryan learned to fish from his Grampa Doug, and Melody eventually stopped crying. Kith & Kin moved around -- to the coast, to Lake Tahoe's Zephyr Point, to the house on the north shore -- but the good times continued. One memory of Doug during Kith & Kin at Zephyr Point stands out -- And I'm sure I'm not the only one to recall this -- because of the visiting bear.

We had been warned when we checked in that a bear had been spotted multiple times recently, raiding the premises. We were instructed to keep our food, garbage, and children secured. But when the bear showed up in person late one afternoon, Doug transformed into photographer mode. I hadn't seen -- previously or since -- Doug so sprightly. First he ran inside and upstairs to get his good camera. Then he ran downstairs and outside. Then he leapt from rock to rock across the steep slope, ignoring trails, stairs, and roads, looking for the right angle at the right distance with the right lighting. The bear, meanwhile, indolently slouched around and among the cabins, foraging for an easy meal. But Doug was having none of it. He closed on the bear, camera up, careless of his personal safety: his footing, his proximity to danger, and his odor of edibility.

Those of us with more of a priority on living until (our own) dinner time stood near the lodge, offering helpful advice:

"Don't get too close!"

"Keep your distance!"

"Watch your step!"

Until both Doug and the bear were out of sight. Later, Doug returned. He had captured the bear's soul on film and was eager to develop the pictures. This was before digital, of course. I remember Sheila giving him the stink-eye and a loving remonstrance; but I don't recall ever seeing the photographs.

Before, in between, and after Kith & Kin gatherings, Jan and I would pack up the kids and make trips to visit the Dills. Originally, this meant a nine-ish-hour drive from Sacramento to Eugene. We loved the wooded beauty around their home at the end of the road. We loved the waffles or French toast we always were served for breakfast. We loved sitting on the back deck watching the meadow and the visiting wildlife, before the subdivision rolled out across the landscape. We have many snapshots of Bryan, Melody, and Thomas at this house when they were all tiny tots. However, visiting Oregon was not without its hazards. On one particularly memorable trip we ploughed through a deer's hindquarters with our front fender. The Ford Tempo was never the same after that. Not that it was ever a particularly noteworthy car. And on another journey, we got caught in a snowstorm over Shasta Pass, requiring heroic driving on an unplowed road. Our Saturn SL1 lost a piece of the fender when it got caught in the snow chain. Despite these dangers, the destination was always worth it.

We didn't always end up at Eugene on these pilgrimages. One very distinct memory from when Bryan was very young was meeting Doug and Sheila at Hosmer Lake, about an hour west of Bend in the shadow of Mount Bachelor. These were Doug's stomping grounds from his youth, and he was excited to share them with us. I remember meeting there, instantly recognizing the green pickup truck and red canoe from across the campground, and Bryan vibrating with anticipation.

Over the years, we also met Doug and Sheila for holidays at some of our timeshare condos. Notable among these were trips to Newport, Coos Bay, and Eagle Crest. Sometimes These vacations involved our immediate family with just Doug and Sheila; other times we would be joined by various subgroups of the Myricks, Doug's sister's family. These were good times, even when the weather was miserable.

As the years passed we moved from Sacramento, to Shingle Springs, to St. Peters, Missouri, to Henderson, Nevada. While we were living in Shingle Springs, the Dills moved from Eugene to Gardnerville. Their new home in a new subdivision had no landscaping. Since we were only three hours away, we loaded the kids and the rototiller in the Dodge Grand Caravan and paid our first visit. Doug and Sheila fed us well, and we tilled the packed, barren soil until it was ready to plant a lawn and Sheila's glorious garden. That effort has paid numerous dividends though the subsequent years, as whenever we have visited there has been something new and beautiful to look at growing in the yard.

And not always growing, as the pergola and patio furniture Doug built continue to impress. Doug was a woodworker. Over the years, both before and after we became acquainted, he made some beautiful furniture. In our home right now, Jan and I enjoy looking at (and frequently using) the four-foot diameter round redwood burl table he made, and both the cribbage table and small cribbage board. Prominent in our front room are a Scandinavian-style sideboard table and lamp. On the ledge above our dining room is a beautiful illuminated stained-glass box. Many of the tools Doug used to make these artisan works are now in our garage. Every time I see them, I am reminded of his generosity: the way he shared his talents with his family and the community.

Although I will miss Doug, he will not be forgotten.

By Marc

Marc Elliot Hall Henderson, Nevada 

Page created: 18 July, 2019
Page modified: 14 January, 2023

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