By JJ Lamb

“…I first met Jack when I was 13 and he was 16 and at that moment I said to myself, “that’s the man I’m going to marry; oh, those beautiful blue eyes!”

Jane Dillon moved with her family to Vail in 1935. The Dillon family operated the Vail Junction Texaco Gas Station. She and her brother attended the Vail School, were active in the 4-H Club and were weekend tour guides at Colossal Cave. She met the love of her life, Jack Herman, there. Here is their love story in Jane’s words:

“My mother and dad had a little gas station and grocery store right on the old Benson Highway, U.S. 80 at the Vail Junction turn-off. Jack’s grandfather was Frank Schmidt, the man who developed Colossal Cave. On weekends, Jack worked as a guide at the cave, so I got a job there too. We started going together when I was 14. Jack went into the Army right out of high school and was stationed at the newly activated Davis-Monthan Air Base. We were very much in love.

Jane Dillon (far left) and her Vail Villager 4-H Club friends proudly wearing their sewing projects. Herman Collection, Vail Preservation Society

Then came Pearl Harbor. Jack and I started talking about getting married before he would be shipped out. On a Sunday night we made plans to elope on Wednesday. I would go to school in the morning and he would pick me up at noon in front of Tucson High School. We decided we would go to Florence to keep it a secret. We couldn’t have our marriage license published in the local paper! I packed my suitcase as though I was going to school for the week. I put my very best dress and my brand-new pair of dress shoes in it. Unbeknownst to me, my mother saw them and took them out. She would always remind me that they were only for special occasions!

I was 17 and Jack was a 20-year-old PFC in the Army Air Corps. We told my girlfriend’s mother that I had been invited to my other girlfriend’s house to spend the night. My two best girlfriends went with us and my husband’s stepbrother drove us. A justice of the peace married us on May 13, 1942. The first two numbers on our marriage license were 13 and that became our lucky number. We arrived back in Tucson later that day and my friend’s mother greeted us with “Call Mrs. Mitchell!” I knew we were in trouble. I phoned her and she said, “Jane, you and Harriet must come home now!” I turned to my husband and said, “I have to go home.” With that he took the phone out of my hand and said, “Jane and I were married today and she will not be coming home now.”

Mrs. Mitchell had to let my parents know this right away. My folks didn’t have a telephone, but the Vail Post Office did. Mrs. Mitchell called the Post Mistress, Mary Jane Warner, and asked if she would please go over and tell them that Jack and Jane had just gotten married.”

Jack and Jane Herman’s marriage lasted 65 years. One of the things Jane was most proud of was helping to preserve the history of Vail. It is important for a community to have a sense of its history so that it can move confidently into the future.

Vail Preservation Society is a community powered organization. We bring award winning programs, experiential educational opportunities, advocate for heritage related projects. A recent success is the alignment of the future Railroad Trail along the historic 1880s rail bed between Vail and the W. Anne Gibson Esmond Station Library and future Esmond Station Regional Park. This will be an amenity that benefits many, many Vail residents while putting a significant historic resource to work to build a sense of place and improve quality of life for the community we serve. VPS is a 501c3. Our work is made possible through grants, memberships and donations. Become a member and be part of putting historic preservation to work for Vail at

J.J. Lamb is President & CEO of Vail Preservation Society. A U of A graduate, her family has lived in Vail since 1971. She was named an Arizona Culturekeeper in 2011 and an Arizona Friend of the Humanities in 2020.

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J.J. Lamb