Jessse Dillinger’s obituary, a true Dean fan

     Updated  February 27, 2009. URL is

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The James Dean Remembered fan club

remembers our friend, Jesse Dillinger

Photo courtesy of Jesse’s mother, Judi Dillinger, email

We are sad to report that James Dean Jeopardy champion and long-time friend Jesse Dillinger has passed.  Details will follow.  Marianne O’Malley called David Loehr with the news on Thursday, January 15, 2009.  Jesse had lupus and had not been able to come to Fairmount since July of 2007.  Jesse worked at the James Dean Gallery for a long time and she will be missed and honored by all Deaners.   

Here is the information received from Judi Dillinger:

Hello, and thank you for coming. Bill and I were with Jess when her heart stopped beating, and yet I can’t believe we are here. Our Jess was a sweet, beautiful child with an angelic face, big blue eyes, and white blonde hair. Jess was a cuddler- she always let you know when she needed to be held. She loved "her baby" brother Zach when he came along 2 1/2 years later. She doted on him. I am proud that they were friends in addition to being siblings.

Our family has always loved classic movies and our musical tastes vary widely. Jess especially loved any film made by Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda. But she was most devoted to James Dean. She first persuaded us to take her to Fairmount, Indiana (Dean’s hometown) when she was about 12. I remember Bill trying to get her to talk to Jimmy’s cousin, Marcus Winslow. She was too shy to approach him, so Zach took the initiative and approached him on her behalf. From that day on, Fairmount was home to her. Jess moved to Fairmount in 2002. She worked in the James Dean Gallery, and became known for her encyclopedic knowledge of even the most minute detail of his life and career.

Jess was very artistic. She could do anything from developing her own photos to silk screening. She was a trendsetter. She’d create or start wearing something or using something in a totally new way, and six months later it was a nationwide trend. She was an old soul, yet always ahead of her time. She was very into "upcycling"- before it became cool. She knitted purses from shopping bags, painted, made jewelry and altered her own photos. She sold her pieces to people the world over through her website.

My daughter Jess was my best and truest friend. She was with me for well over half of my life. She always stuck up for those less fortunate. She was nurturing and maternal with her friends. She was always honest. She was the most generous person I know. She was beautiful, and she created beauty. Jess was once told, "Girl, you’re BOLD," and she was.

She always smelled so wonderful, and her skin was so soft. I called her "the queen of products"- if it smelled good, and came in cool packaging, she bought it. She also inherited her great-grandmother’s love of shoes- she must’ve had 50 pairs. A week or so before she went into the hospital this last time, she realized that she didn’t have any black shoes to wear with a dress we’d bought her for Christmas. The next day, she bought three pairs.Jess had a soft spot in her heart for abandoned or abused animals, dogs especially. She rescued her beloved beagle, Bailey, from a life on the highway in Tennessee. The commercials for the ASPCA tore her up.

The very best thing about MY life has been that I was blessed with the honor of having Jess and Zach call me, "Mom". Bill, I thank you for making that possible, and for being such a good dad to our children. Jess and I talked about funerals a few months ago. She said that she didn’t know who would even show up at hers. She was down because she hadn’t received many Christmas cards in the mail this year, when she was so good at keeping in touch with others. I told her that we all touch more people than we realize, and that she had surely touched more than most.

She said that she hoped to go before me, because she couldn’t live without me. I told her that it isn’t supposed to work that way, and that I wouldn’t  want to try to imagine my life without her. We made a pact, to both live to be very old, and go together. Her body wouldn’t let her stay with me. She was tired, and in more pain than she let on. I don’t know how to live without my girl. Maybe I’ll figure that one out someday.

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