Antoinette “Ton-E” Dillard passed away in late January after a long battle with cancer, and her loss was felt across the EG nation.
Working at EG for twenty years, Dillard showed loyalty and dedication. She served as an attendance assistant in the mornings, and at 11:30 she would then work in security.
Esther Lopez, an attendance assistant who worked with Dillard, first met her 15 years ago in the attendance office. “[Working with Dillard] was a lot of fun. She was very cheerful and always laughing,” Lopez said.
Principal Paul Kelly met her four years ago when he started working at EG. He said when he first met her, he thought she was “stern but fun. She struck me as someone who was really tough, but at the same time, really sweet and kind.”
Dillard was the sponsor of African American club in addition to her school day duties, which gave her additional opportunities to build relationships with students.
Kelly said, “She had really high expectations of people and her students. She treated every student like they were very capable of success. She tried to push students to be their best.”
The African American club members remember her fondly.
Senior Alexis Robinson, who joined the African American club as a freshman, said, “She seemed like she wanted the best for the students and made sure we were doing something that educated us in some sort of way. Whether it be watching a movie or going to outings, she made sure that we learned something from everything but at the same time having fun.”
Junior Sheldon Adams knew Dillard before he attended high school through his older sister, who is an Elk Grove alumna, and he described Dillard’s influence.
“When my sister started going here around 2007, she was a completely different person from when she started to when she left. Miss Ton-E was definitely a part of her transforming from this wild teen to becoming a lot more considerate of the people around her, becoming more responsible, and learning a lot more about life. I’ve definitely been able to learn a lot of stuff from what my sister’s learned and beyond about what it means to be a good person.”
Robinson has expressed a desire to continue the club in honor of their sponsor.
“Our freshman year, it was really big because Ms. Ton-E would make sure that the group got together. Now, no one is that involved in it because we don’t have a coordinator.
For African American club, I feel like we need to do something and come together for her. She was the one holding African American club together, and so what we need to do to honor her is to come together ourselves. We can’t let it fall apart.”
Staff members and students alike have many stories of her kindness.
“I remember one time she was talking to one of our students, and she shared that the student didn’t have shoes for school. The following day Ton-E came with a bag from the store with two pairs of shoes, among other things, and gave it to her,” Lopez said.
The EG nation solemnly remembers her contributions to the school.
“When people bring up her name and start getting teary eyed, be mindful of why they’re crying because she had an impact on not just some people but everyone who’s been going here for the last two decades,” Adams said.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Kelly said. “She was really a special person that we’re gonna miss very, very much. You can find someone to fill a job, but you can’t always find someone who has the same kind of impact here. She’s irreplaceable.”