The nursing home’s residents consider Dillard a star and gave her a big birthday party to celebrate her 105 years.
“In April of this year, I came to Refugio. I came here to live with my son, my wonderful son,” Dillard said.
Dillard, with a twinkle in her eye and a beautiful smile, said she was born and raised in Houston, where she saw many different things transpire through her years.
For example, when she was 10 years old in 1918, she recalls World War I.
“I remember the Armistice. We were excited,”
Armistice Day took effect at 11 o’clock in the morning – the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918.
Dillard said huge celebrations were going on.
“We weren’t allowed to go to town. We had to stay inside our home,” she said, referring to the revelry.
Dillard, one of four sisters, said she was a middle sister.
She said friends of her sisters were in World War I.
Ten years later in 1928, when Dillard was 20 years old, she had experienced the Roaring 20s.
“I lived through that time. I was a flapper –sort of. Some of it was fun, and some was tragic,” she said.
The tragedy she remembered was when her mom passed away.
“Mom died. We had to give up one of ours,” she said with glistening eyes.
But thinking of the fun, she returned to her smile, remembering the dancing and music of the time.
“We went to dances, and we went in crowds,” she said.
The following year, when she was 21, she married. She and her husband had one child – Bob Dillard, who lives in Refugio.
When Dillard turned 30 in 1938, she had gone through one of the roughest periods in U.S. history: The Great Depression.
“If anybody has gone through the Great Depression, you have done something,” she said.
“We didn’t throw anything away, not even a shoestring. I would say I could use that shoestring for something,” she said.
“We managed to get through. It was tough, but it was a learning thing, too,” she said.
She said she worked in a nursery for 12 years in one department: labor and delivery. She worked other places, too.
At the time, one could get a hamburger for 5 cents or a cup of coffee for 5 cents.
“That was a lot of money. They worked just as hard for that nickel as they do now for a dollar.” she said.
In 1948, Dillard turned 40 years old.
“I was still working at Heights Hospital in Houston,” she said.
Of course, she had experienced World War II in her 30s.
“I had nephews in that war ... lost two of them,” she said with tears welling up.
Her nephews had fought in the European Theater.
Dillard said When World War II was over, the celebrations were not the same.
“We didn’t celebrate like we did when World War I was over. There were picnics,” she said.
When Dillard was 50 years old, rock ‘n’ roll had emerged in the 1950s.
“We didn’t have very much of that around our house. We had some acknowledgement of him (Elvis Presley),” she said.
“We like fast and loud music with fast steps and fast music,” she said.
In 1968, Dillard celebrated her 60th birthday.
She recalls watching television in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
“I remember distinctly looking at the television when it happened,” she said.
“We had good TV (news), not like this mess now,” she said.
“(Kennedy’s assassination) certainly did make me puzzled why in the world did that happen?” she said.
Another sad turn was her husband, Robert Luter, became ill with cancer.
In 1969, she remembers the moon landing.
“We just looked at it from home. It was about the most foolish thing anybody could ever do,” she said.
By her 70th birthday in 1978, her husband had died in 1972, and the United States had yet another war in Vietnam.
“We lived through it because we lost another one there,” she said.
Of course, Dillard has seen more wars – Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan –and historical events/tragedies throughout her years. Some of those things just can’t be forgotten unless you weren’t born yet.
“I never had any reason for a long life or a short life. I had a sick cousin and bills to pay,” she said.
“I just lived, staying active,” she added.
Dillard said she doesn’t have any secrets about her longevity.
But she has some advice for others.
“Live your own life, and live it as full as possible and decently.”