In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Janet Dillard, 1939-2024

Portrait of Janet Dillard. IMB Photo

Janet Dillard, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Nigeria and Kenya, died Feb. 12, 2024, in Louisville, Kentucky. She was 84.

Janet was born March 7, 1939, in Owensboro, Kentucky, to the late J. Pascal and Nan Heisler Davis. She graduated from Owensboro High School and received the Bachelor of Music Education from Murray State College (now University) in Murray, Kentucky, and the Master of Religious Education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

She married Jim Claude Dillard on Dec. 27, 1967. Before marriage, she served as a summer missionary for the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), on staff at Ridgecrest Conference Center and as director of children’s work and kindergarten at Central Park Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama.

In 1965, she was part of the inaugural class of Journeymen missionaries commissioned by the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). She was appointed to Nigeria where she met Jim Dillard, her husband of 56 years. As a Journeyman, she served as a teacher at the Niger Baptist College, Minna, Nigeria. After her return from Nigeria, she worked again at Ridgecrest and at the Baptist Day Care Center in Louisville.

While seeking long-term appointment with the IMB, she wrote: “During the two years as a Journeyman, I had a growing conviction of God’s leadership to seek career appointment. About the time Jim and I decided to marry, he also decided to attend seminary, although we had not discussed missionary service as a possibility. After we decided to marry and as our relationship deepened, we discovered that each of us had felt strongly God’s leading toward mission service. Our experience as Journeymen contributed greatly to this feeling. We have had a continuing conviction that we should seek appointment.”

In 1970, the International Mission Board appointed Janet and Jim missionaries to Kenya. They served there for 32 years.

Janet is survived by her husband, Jim Dillard; two sons, Davis (Valerie) Dillard and Brandon (Kelly) Dillard; grandchildren, Cara Dillard, Michael (Kaity) Dillard, Matthew Rigsby, Kelsey Rigsby, Christian Dillard, and Mark Dillard; and great-grandchildren, Kiah Hill, Kaiden Hill, and Krue Warner.

A funeral service was held Feb. 19, at James H. Davis Funeral Home and Crematory in Owensboro.

Read an obituary here.