Richard Emmett Dillon |

Richard Emmett Dillon

Sept. 14, 1933 — Aug. 17, 2017

Richard Emmett Dillon, a pioneering advertising executive and entrepreneur, died in his home in Vero Beach, Florida on Aug. 17, 2017, surrounded by family and friends. He was 83 and had for several years battled cancer.

After working at General Foods and Johnson & Johnson, where he was president of their Mexico division, Mr. Dillon created one of the first advertising agencies focused on marketing to Hispanics in the United States. Based in Newport Beach, California, Mendoza, Dillon & Associates grew rapidly and was eventually acquired by the WPP Group.

Mr. Dillon was born on Sept. 14, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest child of Irene and John C. Dillon. After graduating from Canterbury School in New Milford Connecticut and then Princeton University, Mr. Dillon displayed his characteristic rebellious streak and left the family’s printing business to strike out on his own as a marketing executive. After the acquisition of his company by WPP, Mr. Dillon and his wife, Phyllis, divided their time between New York City, Vero Beach, Florida, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

An avid golfer, fly-fisher, skier, traveler, bridge aficionado and history enthusiast, Mr. Dillon displayed a robust physical and intellectual curiosity throughout his days. Despite proclamations of his personal philosophy: “Life is war, and every day’s a battle,” Mr. Dillon will be remembered by friends and family as one of the most personable and joy-filled of people. Indeed, years ago, one of his young grandsons, hearing his boisterous laugh, dubbed him “Ha-Ha,” which is what his grandchildren called him for the rest of his life. His zest for living extended to the iconic pink polo shirt he wore on the links and his frequent bursts into song, at the slightest suggestion, in his lilting Irish tenor.

Mr. Dillon is survived by his wife of 62 years, Phyllis Dillon; his six children Richard, Patricia, Michael, Stephen, Scott and William; and his eight grandchildren.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Vero Beach, Florida, 32963.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a memorial gift be made to the VNA & Hospice Foundation,, and that a rousing chorus of “Danny Boy” be sung in honor of his remarkable, joyful life.

An online guestbook is available at

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