Ben Dillard laid down his banjo for the final time on August 21, 2021. Leaving this world peacefully with his family by his side. Ben was known for his humor, love of family and bluegrass music. To his grandchildren he was PawPaw and whenever they came to visit, he would stop whatever he was doing to spend time with them. To his nieces and nephews, he was Uncle Benny and was always making them laugh by playing a prank or joking around with them. Ben was born on June 7, 1933, in Dalton, GA, to the late Pauline Dickson Dillard and Earl Alfred Dillard. He is preceded in death by Siblings: Earl Dillard Jr, Bobby Joe Dillard, James Dillard, Glen Dillard, RL Dillard, Thomas Dillard and Mary Jane Brooks; also, by Nephews - Bobby Dillard and Eddie Plott; Nieces - Angela Dillard and Gelita Brooks Freeman, a Grand Son-in-Law Joshua Wayne Baxter. And a special Army Brother, Jimmy Seymore. As well as many of his special “Bluegrass Family”.
He met the love of his life, Morrean Sosebee in 1952 when his sister Margaret invited her home from school one day. He walked into the house that evening whistling, as everyone was setting down to dinner, when he saw her, he stopped in mid-whistle and said, “No one told me we had company”. They eloped on June 27, 1953. They lived in Dalton GA until he entered into service for our country in the Army during the Korean War. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he received honors in the rifle range. Following his service, he had planned to stay in North Carolina, but at the pleading of his sister Mary Jane Brooks and Morrean’s Mother, the family moved to Rome. Because he was needed at home, Ben was unable to attend school past the 4th grade, but that didn’t keep him from achieving a successful career in the automotive repair industry. In the 1960’s he owned and operated the Rome Auto and Body shop on West 10th Street in Rome. Later he sold that business and purchased a small gas station across from the North 53 Drive-In Theater. He ran the new business Dillard’s Grocery Store with his wife Morrean and oldest children Becky and Benjy. He added a “bait room” in the back of the store where there was usually some music jam sections going on and everyone was welcomed. Later he built Dillard’s Paint & Body Shop behind the grocery store that he ran with his son Benjy.
In the 1970’s Ben & Morrean were bitten by the “Bluegrass bug” which led to Ben converting an old bread truck and later an old school bus into campers, so they could attended bluegrass festivals all over the country. He already knew how to play the guitar and it wasn’t long before he was pick’n the banjo. Their circle of friends grew with every festival they attended.
In 1980 Ben attended the auction of the North 54 Drive-In Theater, just to observe. But ended up purchasing the property. He sold the other business and their home to work on the new property. Since they were not allowed to use it as a theater, he and Morrean took down the movie screen (DIY) with the help of family and friends. He used all the material to build a large covered stage and seating area, attached to the existing snack bar. At the new “Dillard’s Music Park”, they held up to five bluegrass festivals a year for the next 15 years. While still continuing travel to other festivals in between. Their circle of friends, they referred to as bluegrass family, continued to grow.
After retirement Ben continued to play his banjo and enjoy jamming with friends, even when dementia kept his fingers from picking the tunes like they once could.
In 2018 Ben & Morrean were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Bluegrass by the Atlanta Society of Entertainers. And in 2019 they were inducted into Hall of Honor by the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.
Ben is survived by his loving wife and caregiver of 68 years, Morrean Sosebee Dillard. Their children: Becky Dillard Gregory & husband Lyn Gregory - Nashville TN; Benjy Dillard and wife Benita Dalrymple Dillard - Rome GA; Janie Dillard Evans and husband Dennis Evans - Rome GA. Grandchildren: Bryan Waddell - Nashville TN; Rebecca Erin Waddell Kreider and husband Mat Kreider - Katy TX; Wes Dillard and wife Mandi Phillips Dillard – Gulf Shores FL; Sandie Evans Baxter - Rome GA; Brittany Evans Sapp and husband Jon Sapp - Atlanta GA; Dillon Evans and finance’ Mari Rico - Cartersville GA. Great-grandchildren: Jacob & Logan Kreider, Riley Dillard, Bailey & Jodi Baxter, Jonathan & Janie Sapp. His sister Margaret Dillard Plott- Dalton, GA. Brother-in-Law Clarence Brooks, Sister-in-laws: Cricket Dillard, Caroline Dillard and Bonnie Dillard. And a very special couple that are considered family, Nicolas & Carolina Cruz. As well as many nieces, nephews and cousins that he dearly loved, including Santa Gene Brooks and Santa Bryan Dillard.
A special thanks to the Heyman Hospice Care Nurse Kelley Borowski and Bob Lee for their loving care and assistance during his last week.
In lieu of flowers donations can be sent in his memory to Heyman Hospice, 420 E. 2nd Street, Suite 105, Rome, GA 30161
A celebration of Ben’s life will be held at the Dillard Music Park on Thursday afternoon, August 26, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. with Josh Pegg leading the service. Interment will follow in East View Cemetery.
Ben’s family will receive friends at Dillard’s Music Park on Thursday from 11:30 a.m. until the service hour.
Due to Covid concerns the family is asking all visitors to wear a mask and please refrain from embracing Morrean Dillard and Family members. We don’t like it, but feel it is necessary to protect his widow.
Pallbearers: Bryan Dillard, Alex Fonseca, Daniel Pegg, Dillon Evans and Jacob Krider.
The staff of Salmon Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of Ben Dillard.