This week our club gathered to remember and honor one of its founding members, Dillon Snell. Above are people who had the opportunity to know him and work with Dillon.

Obituary, 2019


Colonel (Retired) Dillon Snell of Boerne, Texas, passed away peaceful at his home on Monday, June 3rd, 2019, surrounded by his children and a dedicated family of caregivers. Dillon, an active member of this beloved Texas Hill Country community for more than forty years, was husband to Rebecca, a father to John, Ann, and Rob, a grandfather, uncle, role model, and hero to many. At his core, Dillon was a career military officer, always focused on “his troops”; a highly decorated combat infantryman; a selfless contributor to his community; and a gentleman who treated those around him with respect and curiosity.

Dillon Snell was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on August 16, 1924, the eldest of four children of Vincent Adellan Snell (“VA”) and Suzanne Evangeline Dillon (“Tudy”). Dillon, his two brothers and a sister, were raised in Grand Rapids and spent Depression-era summers in a simple cabin at Bear Lake in the woods where he developed a passion for adventure and the aptitude for self-sufficiency. As an Eagle Scout, just before he went to Michigan State in 1941, Dillon, his cousin, and a friend took a ‘seat of the pants’ canoe trip on the Missinaibi River in the wilds of the Canadian wilderness. That two-month journey was the first of many which Dillon took-on as he developed a quiet confidence in himself, and those around him. That character defined him throughout his life.

After graduating from high school in Lake Bluff, Michigan, Dillon joined the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1941 as a fire watchman in the remote woods of Colorado. As part of the wave of young Americas volunteering to serve in the military, Dillon joined the U.S. Army in early 1942. Within a year he was accepted into the Army’s elite ski unit, the 10th Mountain Division. The Division trained in Colorado before being deployed to Italy in 1944. In early 1945, in the hills north of Florence, Dillon earned his first Bronze Star with valor and his first Purple Heart. After “stabilizing duty” on the border of Italy and Yugoslavia, he was preparing to deploy to continue the fight against Japan when the war ended.

In 1946, Dillon returned to Michigan State and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserves. By the summer of 1950, he was back on active duty fighting the Communist North in desperate battles at the Pusan Perimeter at the southern tip of South Korea. By the time he left the war, a year-and-a-half later, he had marched up the entirety of the Korean Peninsula as allied forces pushed the Communist Forces north to the Yalu River border with China. But, in his own words, “We then ran like hell...” back down the peninsula after the Chinese joined the fight and overwhelmed the UN troops, ending that conflict in stalemate in 1953. During his service in the Korean theatre, Dillon earned two more Bronze Stars, one more Purple Heart, and a Silver Star; among other commendations, he wore two Combat Infantryman’s Badges for his service in World War II and Korea.

Dillon met the love of his life, Rebecca Williams Danziger (“Becky”), from Montgomery, Alabama in 1952 at the wedding of Rebecca’s dearest friend, Scottie Gayle Shepherd, to U.S. Army Captain Norman J. Allen. The next spring, Becky and Dillon married in Montgomery at Chapel No. 2 at Maxwell Air Force Base. Following a honeymoon to the Bahamas, the couple began a classic Army Officer career with nearly a dozen postings throughout the U.S. including the Pentagon; peacetime Korea; and West Germany at the height of the Cold War where he commanded a brigade. In 1971, with the immediate family settled in San Antonio, Texas — the adopted home of Dillon’s parents, VA and Tudy — Dillon went on his final U.S. Army tour into the Central Highlands of South Vietnam as a full Colonel and an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army.

Dillon retired from the Army in 1972, and the family moved to Boerne, buying a small ranch Sunnybrook, named after one of Becky’s favorite books. Sunnybrook became a gathering place for the growing Snell family, friends from their Army years and equestrian circles, and the Boerne community as Becky and Dillon hosted many fabulous Christmas and cocktail parties, wedding receptions under the towering oak trees, and holiday family reunions.

South Texas suited the family well. Dillon engaged in local politics, running (unsuccessfully) for Kendall County Commissioner; started a home construction business with partner and friend Bill Jackson; and became a humble servant of the local Rotary Club. He and Becky found enormous comfort in the community of St. Helena’s and in local activities ranging from sailing on nearby Canyon Lake to equestrian competitions across the Southwestern U.S. But it was in the Rotary Club of Boerne where Dillon channeled his fundamental belief that understanding other people and cultures was the way to make a difference in the world. During nearly fifteen years of stewardship of the Rotary Club’s Youth Exchange Program for the Southern District of the U.S., Dillon encouraged and facilitated life-changing experiences for hundreds of students and host families around the world.

Dillon is preceded in death by Becky in January 2018, his sister Anne Marie (Nancy) Mead, brother Robert, and his parents. He is survived by his brother Arthur, and his children, John (and Melinda) of Austin, Texas; Ann (and Gary) of Seattle, Washington, and Rob (and Barbara) of London, England; five (5) grandchildren — Katy, Sam, Ben, Christina and Dillon; one great grandchild, Gus; many nieces and nephews, and hundreds of Rotary Exchange students around the world whose lives he touched.