Monday, January 24, 2011

Keith Dillon, Greyhound Racing Legend, Dies at 95

courtesy of NGA News
by Leslie A. Wootten 

Keith Dillon, a model of excellence in the Greyhound racing world since the early 1940s, died on January 24, 2011, at his long-time home in Olathe, Kansas. He was 95. The cause of death was heart failure. 

Born in the tiny town of Cedar, Kansas, on June 6, 1915, Mr. Dillon grew up during the “Roaring Twenties” and the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. As a young man, he worked in the town's general merchandise store, but Greyhounds would ultimately become his livelihood.

At age 16, he saw his first coursing meet in 1932. In 1938, he trained his first coursing Greyhounds, winning the Sapling stake with a pup he trained called Samco. That triumph helped Mr. Dillon realize that he wanted to be in “the dog business,” and his life's course was set.

His long run with the fastest canines in the world was interrupted only by his military service in World War II. After the War, Mr. Dillon rejoined his new bride, Vivian Miller, of Kansas City, Missouri. The two had met at a dance and married after a six-week courtship before he shipped out. The whirlwind romance extended into a solid marriage that thrived until Vivian's passing six decades later. In 1958, the couple established a permanent residence and Greyhound farm in Olathe, Kansas. The location was selected so their daughter, Judy, who was born deaf in 1948, could attend a special school there.

Through the years, Mr. Dillon kept the bar high as his “crop” of about 30 Greyhounds per year consistently competed in top grades at premiere tracks such as Derby Lane and Southland. Some of his champions included Perceive, Position, Abella, Havencroft, Understood, Dillard, Bold Footprint, and Keefer, to name a few on his illustrious roster.

Beginning in the early 1970's, Mr. Dillon served four terms as President of the National Greyhound Association and 16 years as President of the Greyhound Hall of Fame, which he did so much to establish. About that time, he also invented the Jack-a-Lure, an artificial lure training machine. He served on many committees and was always an advocate for Greyhound men and women, as well as for the sport itself.

In 1983, Mr. Dillon was recognized for his varied accomplishments and service to the sport by being inducted into the Greyhound Hall of Fame. About his induction, Mr. Dillon told The Greyhound Review , “Naturally, I feel very honored. I consider it the greatest honor I could ever receive.”

The busy “dog-man” always reserved time and energy to serve his Olathe community. In addition to being a major stockholder in the Olathe State Bank, which he helped found in 1973, he served as Director of the Endowment Association of the Kansas State School for the Deaf.

Preceded in death by his beloved “Viv,” Mr. Dillon is survived by daughter Judy Rodgers, of Olathe, Kansas; granddaughter, Amy and Paul Braden, of Olathe, Kansas, with their sons, Bam and Mac; grandson, Joe and Kelly Rodgers, of North Port, Florida, with their daughters, Kelly and Mackenzie, and sons, Jordan, Brady, and Cameron.

Although the Greyhound racing leader has passed from this world, his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of family and friends, as well as in Greyhound bloodlines and history.

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