Cherry Blossoms

Ann Newell MacWilliam Dilley

November 30, 1928 ~ May 14, 2021 (age 92)


Ann Newell MacWilliam Dilley was born November 30th, 1928 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, daughter of Virginia Jordan Payson MacWilliam and James Donald MacWilliam. She moved to Grand Rapids in 1952 having married Alva Newton “Newt” Dilley in 1952 and became a very active member of the community, particularly in the arts and civic endeavors. 

Ann was a bright and beautiful spirit with a perpetual love of learning, an intelligent wit and conversationalist, a generous and compassionate friend, beloved wife, and cherished mother and grandmother. The arts were a lifelong passion, and she used her talents to transform family heirlooms, metals, semiprecious stones, and found objects into unique jewelry and sculptural pieces. 

Ann graduated from Wilkes-Barre Institute for Young Ladies and went on to study dance and earn a degree in English at The Connecticut College for Women, graduating in 1950. Immediately following graduation, Ann shepherded 15 young women on a tour of England, Scotland, Switzerland, and Brussels. In addition to seeing everyone home safely, she was thrilled to reconnect with her Scottish roots and kin in Killin, Scotland. Upon her return, she took a job in New York City with Roper Opinion Research. 

While at Connecticut College, Ann met A. Newton Dilley on a blind date set up by their respective roommates. The date with Newt, a handsome and witty World War II army veteran and Yale Law School student, launched a love affair that spanned 65 years. They married February 16th, 1952 and settled in Grand Rapids. Their love and laughter established an adventurous, caring, and joyful atmosphere that solidified strong bonds among a lively collection of family and friends. Family trips – meticulously documented in a series of journals authored by Ann – ranged far and wide, including a six-week camping trip to California, a French barge trip, a tent safari in Kenya, and most recently, a three-generations excursion to Sicily in 2018 at a spry 89. 

Upon moving to Michigan, Ann became involved in a range of activities, including serving as a Candy Stripe Volunteer at Blodgett Hospital, volunteering with the Junior League, the Women’s Committee of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and the Mud Hens skeet shooting club. Her legendary dinner parties often featured local fish and game secured via her husband’s passion for hunting and fishing.

Ann began attending art classes in the late 1970’s, first at Aquinas College and then at Grand Valley State University. Under the tutelage and friendship of Beverly Seeley, professor of jewelry and metalsmithing at GVSU, Ann found her true passion. Over more than 35 years, Ann produced an amazing collection of unique, personal expressions of her creativity and skill. 

To anyone Ann met, she was a kind, curious, gracious and welcoming person. A cherished and beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, daughter-in-law, and friend, she lived a full and active 92 years and her fierce strength and spirit live on in her legacy of love and creativity.

Ann lost her life partner and spouse, Newt, in 2015. She is survived by their three children Cameron Dow Dilley, Deborah Ann Dilley Vaughan, and Abby Payson Dilley, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild.  A celebration of Ann MacWilliam Dilley’s life will be held later this year. In lieu of any gifts, donations can be made to the Ann M. Dilley Jewelry/Metalsmithing Scholarship Fund through this link directly or sent to the following address: University Development, Grand Valley State University, L.V. Eberhard Center 9th Floor, 301 Fulton St W, PO Box 1945, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-1945.

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