By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer
Army Air Corps Pilot Capt. Dale Dyer (Veteran) and local historian was presented the Presidential Gold Distinguished Service Medal from the United States Presidential Service Center Aug. 9 at the Inola at Blue Ridge Colonial Resort for his service above self path he has led over the decades.
Dyer, a World War II veteran bomber served in the 458th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force as a second division member aiding fellow soldiers in the global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. Marked as the deadliest conflict in human history, there were 70 to 85 million fatalities with massacres, genocide, strategic bombing, death from starvation and disease and the world’s only use of nuclear weapons.
U.S. Presidential Service Center CEO Martin CJ Mongiello spoke of Dyer’s service to the country in fighting for our country’s freedom and protecting allies, then presented him the Distinguished Service Medal and jewel box in the Colonial American chapel.
“This is a complete surprise to me in all respect and I appreciate it very much but you’re trying to give me credit for a lot of things that I don’t think I really done,” he said.
In the past Dyer said, “I found out a long time ago
you can’t do anything by yourself and accomplish much but if you have friends, (soldiers), and coworkers and folks that work together you can accomplish so much.”
Dyer has since became a famed Fannin historian, author and columnist having moved to the area 70 years ago, he said. Born Dec. 8, 1919, Dyer grew up in Kansas on a wheat farm.
“When I was growing up in Kansas they all were saying young man go west and well, I got mixed up and came east,” he said.
Over the decades Dyer ran his own business selling trucks, tractors and equipment in a time when a handshake and trust stood in place of contracts. “They followed through with it (their word) and it was a great place to live,” he said.
Raising a family with his late wife, church was one of their main interests in life. “We always attended church regularly as a family together and are still very church oriented today,” he said.
Dyer worked with Boy Scouts over the years and in the mid-1980s the Fannin County Heritage Foundation was established.
Appointed by the Kiwani Club of Blue Ridge to the foundation, Dyer along with Ethelene Jones, began working on their first book “Facets of Fannin.” The whole county organized in the effort and everyone gave feedback to help put together the full history of Fannin through 1989.
“It’s unbelievable to us that the book is still selling,” Dyer said.
On a visit to the Hogback area to visit relatives, Dyer learned about the Dickeys, some of the first settlers in the area, and their cemetery where both Hannah and George and their 30 slaves were buried.
A clean up of the cemetery got him interested in searching out other possible areas in Fannin that might be neglected or forgotten. He received a list that had 100 locations and as visits began happening Dyer, along with Danny Mashburn, worked for five years discovering 223 cemeteries.
“That has been a very great experience to go all over the county, to places you’d never believe existed,” he said.
A book was printed with the history, GPS location, names and birth and death dates recorded. Many folks worked together to accumulate local history, he said.
One great helper and provider of information was Hoot Skelton. “He really helped in getting things organized”, Dyer said.
“We actually get together every-once-in-a-while to see what’s happening next.
In a surprise turn of events Mongiello called Skelton up to the podium, presenting him with a medal as well for his time spent aiding Dyer and the community over the years.
“Thank you to everyone and for all you’ve meant to me,” Dyer said. “Growth is continuing and by embracing yet preserving area history one will never forget where they came from and who came before them.”