Tyrone Dillard was taking a computer class in Queens. The instructor told him that a man he knew, the director of facilities for a large midtown church, needed a temporary replacement for a staff member on medical leave.
Tyrone interviewed with Derek Maddalena, and he got the job. Three weeks later, when the man he was subbing for returned, Tyrone started packing up his things.
“Derek said to me, ‘Where are you going? No no no, you’re coming in tomorrow.’ So I must have done a good job.”
Good enough to turn a three-week temp job into a 14-year career. Yesterday—just two weeks after his 65th birthday—Tyrone retired from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
“Tyrone has worked through many critical times at the church, including snowstorms, two blackouts, flood damage from broken pipes, even hurricanes,” Derek says. “It won’t be easy to find a replacement for Tyrone, because the friendship and camaraderie he has created here are irreplaceable.”
One of the most-recognized faces on the building staff, Tyrone helped to maintain every corner of the church, from the outside steps and railings to the upper reaches of the Sanctuary and church house. He’s probably best known as the man who wound the clock in our 19th-century clock tower,, a job that Ricky Secaira will now take on.
Tyrone was easily among the best-loved members of the staff. He showed up with presents for everyone at the staff Christmas party every year. His easy smile and gentle manner camouflaged a quick wit and sharp sense of humor.
“Something Tyrone always joked about with our staff is how close he and Scott were,” Derek says. “He would say, ‘Well you know, me and Scott go back a long way, we are like this’ and he’d put two his fingers together. Or he would say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll put in a good word for you with Scott.’”
You thought he was joking?
“I will miss Tyrone’s wise counsel and our lengthy discussions of church policy and institutional direction,” the senior pastor says. “I will also miss his humor and warmth! I wish Tyrone every good blessing in his retirement. Godspeed, my friend.”
Tyrone was born in Harlem and lived there all his life, along with two sisters and an extended family, all in the same apartment community. “It’s the kind of place where you walk in and everybody knows you,” he says. Tyrone now plans to sleep in, spend more time with his New York crowd, visit his nephews in Virginia, “branch out and travel a little, and go fishing.”
He also promises to visit us at Fifth Avenue now and again. “I’m going to miss the people,” he says. “They were like family.”
The church will honor Tyrone and two other staff members who are also retiring this year (the Rev. Helen Jackson and Tim Palmer Curl) at the annual Kenneth O. Jones Distinguished Service Awards dinner on Oct. 9.