Helen Dill to celebrate 100th birthday today
PLAINS — A former Americus woman will be surrounded by family this weekend as she celebrates her 100th birthday. Helen Dill of Americus, known to legions through Dill’s Florist & Gift Shop, now lives at Sumter Retirement Village in Plains.
Helen Dill’s family provided some background information on the centenarian.
Florence Helen McLean, daughter of Rose and Henry, was born on Jan. 7, 1917, at her parents’ home in Jasper, Alabama. The attending physician was a Dr. Jackson and the nurse was Rose Horan, her maternal grandmother. She was the third child, joining Ellis and Henry, and was soon followed by Jim, Rose, Charlie, and Cherry.
Her father, Henry, worked for the Burton Company, manufacturer of horse collars, halters, and fine leather goods. As the days of transportation in buggies waned, Burton Manufacturing transitioned to the production of golf bags. Henry McLean designed the first of the very popular Burton golf bags.
Three months after Helen was born, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany and the United States entered The Great War, World War I. Suffragists were picketing the White House and 20,000 marched in a parade in New York City in favor of women’s voting rights. Prohibition was adopted and speak easys became the center of social activity along with the movie theater. Rudolf Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford were the popular stars of the era. In 1917, the average home cost $3,500 and cars were $500. A loaf of bread was six cents, and milk was 32 cents a gallon. Helen’s favorite childhood pastimes were playing dolls, making kites, and climbing trees.
She attended the Jasper Public Schools and graduated from Walker High School in 1936. She attended Massey Business College in Birmingham, Alabama, and was a novice at a convent for a short time. Upon returning to Jasper, she met Madison Dill, and they soon became engaged. They married on May 22, 1937, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Bessemer, Alabama, with Father J. Alex O’Neil performing the ceremony. Geneva Dill Price was the matron of honor and Elizabeth McGinty was the maid of honor with the brother of the bride, Ellis McLean, attending as the best man. The couple honeymooned in South Alabama and Florida.
After living in Jasper, the couple moved to Washington, D.C., for the duration of Madison’s service in the U.S. Navy. By 1945, their family had grown to seven children, Gene, Henry, Mary, Kitty, Carol, Joey, and Hank. The Dill clan moved from Jasper to Americus, Georgia, after purchasing the flower shop and next-door residence at 723 Felder St. from the Anderson family. Jerry, Angie, and Jim were born in Americus and completed the family of 10 children.
Helen and Madison raised their family and successfully operated the florist for 40-plus years, leaving the memorable Dill brand in the minds of many as the decades passed. The children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren join together in wishing the matriarch of the family Florence Helen McLean Dill, a happy 100th birthday.
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