Joanne Dilley has a special way of making people feel right at home. That’s because she’s been like family to Benicians as a waitress for the past 19 years, at haunts like Victor’s (now Venticello’s), the Union Hotel, and most recently at Nine-O-Seven Grill. She took a break for a year to manage an office, but it wasn’t for her. Waiting tables is more than a job for Dilley, it’s her way of giving back.
“When I walk up to a table I want the customer to feel like they are in my home, and I will do everything I can to get them what they need. I’ve been known to go across the street to get a root beer or apple pie.” Her down-to-earth, no-nonsense style makes her easy to talk to, and many of her regulars have become lifelong friends. “That’s what endears you in a small town,” she says.
She grew up in another small town, Red Bluff, and moved to Benicia 22 years ago with her husband David, the “love of her life,” who works at Benicia Fabrication & Machine. Her son Charlie, 19, is a waiter at Elvia Rita’s, and her daughter Jennie, 17, is a senior at Benicia High School. “Your greatest accomplishment in life is how your children turn out,” she says. “And mine are good people.”
She gave her family a scare recently when she passed out in her bathroom from what turned out to be pancreatitis and colitis. She’s been on medical leave for four months, and it’s been hard to slow down. She finally got some time at her favorite place—the beach—but she’s ready to go back to work. “I’m a caretaker, it’s what brings me joy.”
Among other things, her work has taught her a lot about respect. “We need to teach our children about respect. Whether you're the president of the bank, a garbage collector, or the person who brings you a drink, we all put our pants on the same way,” she says. “And treating people with respect costs you nothing.”