By Benjamin Cohn
Weaverville – Newly-minted centenarian Margaret Dillard, now a resident of Weaverville’s Brian Center, talked to the Tribune about her recent 100th birthday. Dillard suffers partial hearing loss, so her preferred method of communication is via handwritten messages on a large pad of paper she keeps near her bed.
Sam McGinn, one of her most trusted friends and one of her former pastors, received Dillard’s power of attorney last May when she fell, injuring herself. McGinn arranged for Dillard to have round-the-clock care at the senior community in which she now resides.
McGinn described Dillard as a “prayer warrior,” someone who is incredibly loyal to her spirituality, and as a “remarkable lady of faith.” Dillard is also known for sending out handwritten letters to those congregants of Weaverville First Presbyterian, who are in need of prayer.
Dillard, who on June 20th turned a century old, recounted her birthday party to the Tribune saying, “It was wonderful! I think I had 40 people there. I was really surprised [that] so many of my church family was there, me being so old,” she said, laughing to herself.
“Well, I guess I was the oldest one at the church, member of the church, being 100. Reverend Skip Gilligan is my pastor [at Weaverville First Presbyterian].” Dillard explained that she was born “in a little town called Ellerbe, North Carolina,” known as the one-time home of professional wrestler Andre the Giant.
She conveyed her earliest memory, a humorous tale of an overly-eager young girl yearning for education.
“My first memory? I was five and I wanted to go to school. I got on the school bus and they had to get me off [of it]. Why? I wasn’t supposed to be on there! [laughs].” She was too young to go to school, she said. “I think I was small and young for my age. My brother was on the bus and I wanted to be with him. He was two years older than me.”
Dillard spoke further on the bittersweet reality of living to such an extended age. “There was nine of us [children] and I’m the last. They’re all gone. They’re in a better place.” Dillard never had children of her own.
Partway through Dillard’s interview, another close friend of hers showed up, Sandy Sonner. She told the Tribune that she’s a retired nurse. “She’s been here a little over a year. We brought her in about a month before her 99th birthday,” said Sonner. “She was not in a happy place then. She didn’t want to be here. She wanted to go home. I think her father died when she was quite young. They had a farm.”
Sonner explained that First Presbyterian’s secretary is attentive and capable, updating Dillard on the church’s weekly prayer band, her source for finding parishioners in need of thoughts and prayer.
Dillard’s positive effect on Weaverville’s community is undeniable. Through her faith in God and her immaculate health she’s managed to live longer than anyone she had ever known.