In 1990, the late Chet Locke approached Cecil Dillon about becoming a member of the Lodi Memorial Hospital board of directors.
Locke, who knew Dillon at Lodi Rotary, was about to step down from the hospital board. He thought that Dillon, a civil engineer in Lodi, would be a good choice to replace him at Lodi Memorial.
“I didn’t know anything about what the board does,” Dillon said.
Nevertheless, Dillon joined the board, and in 2002, became Lodi Memorial’s board chairman. A decade later, he still is.
Dillon, 63, said he was told that his civil engineering skills would help the hospital, a reason he should volunteer as a board member since the hospital expanded into new structures in its more than 60 years of existence.
Dillon grew a fondness for Lodi Memorial, recently renamed Lodi Health because it provides a lot more health-related services than a hospital.
“The people and the culture of that hospital is phenomenal,” Dillon said. “It’s a special place.
It’s amazing, he said, how many employees have remained at Lodi Health for 25, 30 and even 40 years.
“There’s tremendous loyalty in this community for the hospital, and it’s always been that way,” Dillon said.
One major change that Lodi Health and the health care industry in general is that the federal government is focusing more on preventative medicine.
“It used to be that you were financially successful the more patients you have (in the hospital),” Dillon said. “In recent years, you’re rewarded for managing people’s health and keeping them out of the hospital.”
Dillon is particularly excited about a newly purchased DaVinci robotic device, which he said can actually perform surgery without cutting the patient open.
Born in 1949, Dillon graduated from Lodi High School and went to the University of California, Los Angeles, to become an architect. The only problem was that UCLA didn’t have an architecture department at the time.
He played second base on the Bruin baseball team before transferring to California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and then to CSU Sacramento.
Sacramento State didn’t have an architecture department at the time, either, so he became an engineer instead.
After working for engineering firms in Stockton, South Lake Tahoe and Pleasant Hill, Dillon returned to Lodi because he missed the Central Valley so much. He started Dillon Engineering on Hutchins Street near Pine Street in 1979.
About 1990, Joe Murphy became a partner, and the office has relocated to Cluff Avenue, just south of Turner Road. He seems to enjoy engineering as much as he does his volunteer work on the Lodi Health board.
Dillon may have a distinction that no other Lodi resident has. To put it succinctly, how many Lodi residents have traveled 100 miles to Colusa County for a Williams City Council meeting.
He’s the city engineer, on a contract basis, in the cities of Williams and Rio Vista. Both cities are too small to hire their own engineer. He’s served 24 years in Rio Vista and nearly three decades in Williams.
When not tending to his two loves — civil engineering and Lodi Health — Dillon enjoys golf and fishing.
“I met some good buddies that do both,” he said.
Dillon has been married to Janet Dillon for 35 years. They have a daughter, Juliea, of Lodi.
Cecil Dillon is quite proud of changing his wife’s allegiance from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the San Francisco Giants. She grew up in Whittier, and her parents had season tickets to Dodgers games.
“But I converted her,” he grinned. “She’s got the Panda hat, the socks and everything.”
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.