Actors' Fund's Tom Dillon Passes Away at 86
Tom Dillon, longtime President of the entertainment industry charity The Actors' Fund of America and a veteran performer in all venues of show business, succumbed, Monday, March 14, 2005 of natural causes at The Actors' Fund Homes in Englewood, New Jersey. He was 86 years old and had been living at the facility, surrounded by show business colleagues he had worked with and served.
As a lifetime member and President of The Actors' Fund from 1989 until 2004, Dillon presided over countless activities designed to take care of entertainment professionals in need from every area of show business. He was heavily involved in day-to-day care for almost 14,000 entertainment professionals annually. Working closely with The Fund's Trustees, executives and staff, he was closely associated with The Aurora, a l78-unit apartment complex offering affordable housing for entertainment professionals in Manhattan; the daily running of the Englewood facility, which boasts the highest health ratings for retirement and assisted living in the state of New Jersey, and The Palm View, a 44-unit luxury apartment complex in West Hollywood, California, for entertainment professionals with AIDS. At the time of his death, he was involved in preparations for a fundraising campaign celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Fund.
Born September 3, l918, in Brooklyn, where he remained a resident throughout his life, Dillon won acclaim as an Irish tenor from his first performance at the age of 18 as a boy soprano on WNYC radio. He served in the U. S. Armed Forces during World War II and became one of the stars, alongside Mario Lanza, Karl Malden, John Forsythe and Red Buttons in the Moss Hart classic "Winged Victory," which featured servicemen from all branches, on Broadway. He toured with the iconic show throughout America and starred in the celebrated film, raising funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. In l996, Dillon co-hosted the 50th anniversary reunion of the cast in New York City along with Kitty Carlisle Hart, the composer's widow.
Dillon's almost 70 years in show business took him to performances in stock and on the Broadway stage in "Ziegfeld Follies" and "The Wonderful World of Burlesque." Entering the fledgling new field of television, he was a featured performer in the popular Milton Berle, Victor Borge, Perry Como, Imogene Coca, Kate Smith and Martha Raye shows. In addition to "Winged Victory," he was seen in such films as "Slaughterhouse Five," "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles," "Anastasia" and "Family Business."
Audiences throughout America saw Dillon partnered with vaudeville headliner Bert Wheeler for l3 years in a musical comedy act, and in appearances from "The Ed Sullivan Show" to the White House. Dillon also sang on the Miss America Pageants and in an appearance at Carnegie Hall.
In addition to presiding over the Actors' Fund, Dillon was a Shepherd (President) of the venerable show business club and charity The Lambs Club. He was a member of Actors Equity, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and American Guild of Variety Artists. A beloved member of the Broadway Community, he was a member of the Nominating Committee of the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards and a recipient of the Founder's Award of the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Dillon is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Alice Parker. Funeral services will be held on Friday, March 18, at 10:30 at the Actors' Chapel, St. Malachy's, 239 West 49th Street, New York City. Joseph Benincasa, Executive Director of The Actors' Fund, has announced a memorial tribute will be held in the near future. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to The Actors' Fund of America, 729 Seventh Avenue, l0th Floor, New York, New York l0019.