Jeffrey Michael Dilley passed away March 18, 2021 from heart failure at age 79. He was born in Racine, Wisconsin on January 31, 1942. Jeff was one of a kind, leaving a long-lasting impression on those meeting him. His higher calling was to help others. Early in his career, he coached young people to develop their job skills in the Job Corps. Later, he mentored many aspiring Vietnamese seeking recommendations, school and career advice. To many of whom he took under his wings, he was a father figure. Professionally, he worked tirelessly to help promote trade between Vietnam and the US.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, Business and History from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire (1967) and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh (1971). He also did the PhD coursework in International Business at the New York University (1972). He was certified by the State of Wisconsin as a Teacher of Social Science.
In September 1968, he received a Direct Presidential Appointment as a Strategic Intelligence Officer in the US Army. Between 1969 and 1970, he served in the Vietnam war as an advisor in the Office of Civil Operations and Rural Support (CORDS) under the US Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). Based mostly in Ban Me Thuot, he was in charge of all-source coordination with command responsibilities and led low-altitude reconnaissance missions.
After the Vietnam war, Jeff continued to serve in the US Reserve Army. He was an Individual Mobilization Augmentation (IMA) officer at the Department of Defense (1973-1994), a Joint Staff officer and a Foreign Area officer at the Pentagon (1994-2002). He graduated from the US Army Command and General Staff College in 1982. He retired from the Army as a Lt. Colonel in 2002.
For his military service, Jeff received the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and Air Crewman Badge. His military intelligence background shaped his life as he always prepared in advance, making plans for the future.
Jeff lived over 40 years in Washington D.C. with summer weekends spent in Rehoboth, Delaware. Being fiercely independent, he was a self-starter and energetically pursued his dreams. He was the chairman of the International Economic Issues Group for the George H.W. Bush Presidential campaign in 1988.
He had a passion for real estate, working as a real estate agent in Washington, DC over several decades. Staying true to his generous character, among all of his real estate accomplishments, the one that he was proudest of was actually a piece of pro bono work, the transformation of a Delaware mobile home park into a cooperative to give its residents greater control over their homes.
In his early 50s, Jeff reinvented himself with a second career in international trade, with a focus on Vietnam. He ran a commerce advisory service and was involved in a wide range of bilateral trade topics, including construction equipment, engines, agricultural products, seafood, furniture, recycling materials, among others. In the later years, he focused more on the big picture strategic issues in technology and innovations, manufacturing, outsourcing and trade promotion between the two countries.
In this line of work, he represented various US companies in Vietnam as well as advised different Vietnamese public and private sector entities in doing business with the US. He also facilitated various trade delegations from Vietnam to the US (the first ever of such visits was organized by Jeff in May 1994, way before the formal normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries) and vice versa. He was an active member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.
After his first business travel to Vietnam in January 1994, he made more than 100 trips to the country over the years. He loved Vietnam and her people, considered the country his second home and had countless Vietnamese friends.
Jeff was a superconnector/integrator and excelled at connecting people and bringing them together. With his inquisitive mind, he was a life-long learner on a constant quest to learn new things and encouraged others to do the same until the very last day of his life.
Jeff took strong interest in history, treasured heirlooms, did genealogy research and loved to share stories about the old days. He honored the past with everyday keepsakes that had great sentimental value to him. He never forgot to light a candle in remembrance of those no longer with him on special occasions. He was a keeper of memories.
Jeff loved giving Hallmark ornaments and other mementos as gifts to family, friends, and business associates. He was always taking pictures of others in every get-together. He created his own rituals and traditions for every holiday. He had a knack for designing creative displays for Christmas, his favorite time of the year. Known as a creative organizer of celebrations, he was the spirit of every party he attended and loved to keep it going and going. He was a maker of memories.
Jeff will be sadly missed by those many people he touched with his can-do spirit, his “helping hand” for their lives, his staunch devotion and protectiveness towards his family and friends.
He is preceded in death by his parents John Mulford Dilley and Evelyn Emily Dilley (Teske). As the oldest of three sons, Jeff steadfastly helped his parents as they aged.
Surviving are his two brothers and their families: Steven (Joanne Dilley Bump); Ken Bump; and nephews Brett Dilley and David (Erin) Dilley. Also, great nephews Colin and Cameron Dilley.
Jan (Doretta) Dilley; niece Anna-Doretta (Larry) Riley; and nephew Damian-Eachan (Erin) Dilley. Also, great nieces Brenna Faye, Quinn Elinor and Isabel Grace.
Jeff left behind many close friends, including Son (Sean) Nguyen, Tien Dang, Ann Hoang and their entire families; John Simpson and Nancy Smith; Bianca DeLeon; Isabel Marks; Arnaud and Nicole Agmann; Irene Aquino; Jason McGee; Fred Haynes; Phuoc Van (Scott) Luu and Thao Phuong Thi Ly; Nhan Dao and Mi Nguyen; Minh and Thao Vo; Tuan Do and Chuyen Dang, Tam Thi Nguyen; Thang Tran; Son Nguyen; Giao Nguyen; Thuan Le; Carol Hargreaves; Anita Robberson; David Tran; Kevin Duncombe; Linh Nguyen; Julian Le and many, many others.
Funeral arrangements were by Cole Funeral Home of Maryland. A celebration of Jeff’s life was held on March 23, 2021 at 11:00 A.M prior to his cremation. A memorial service will be held at a later date (TBD) after Jeff’s ashes has been interned at the Arlington National Cemetery.
To view full versions of the photographs, please click on the Tribute Wall tab at the top of the page.
In lieu of flowers, you are invited to share your memories of Jeff and condolences to his family and friends on the Tribute Wall.