"He was one of the friendliest people in Fulton County," said County Judge Charles Willett. "Always had a smile on his face. He treated everyone fair and equal."
"He was a fine man to work for," said Sheriff's Deputy Boyd Dailey. "It's a shame he didn't have a chance to enjoy his retirement."
Dillinger became ill in late 2010, about the time he prepared to leave office to make way for Buck Foley, who defeated him in the May 2010 primary election.
While Dillinger served as Fulton County Sheriff from 2005 through 2010, the Viola native was also a farmer, truck driver, road department employee and Justice of the Peace over the years.
Dillinger proudly called himself a "country boy," and laughed as he confirmed State Police officers called him "Andy Griffith," because he rarely carried a gun.
Dillinger, however, said he had a gun handy if it was needed, and he attended the Police Academy and took additional training courses during his time in office.
"I'll go home and mess with the cows and farm," Dillinger told The News last December, adding he enjoyed his years helping people, as sheriff, and accepted the voters' decision.
"Whether they voted for me or not, they are still my friends," Dillinger said. "I appreciate people giving me the opportunity and they still have my number if they need me."
"He always kept his home phone number in the phone book and was willing to talk to anyone who needed help," said Debbie Hutson, Dillinger's niece.
Hutson found out how much Dillinger was respected in the community when she put together an October auction to help raise money for his mounting medical expenses.
"We raised over $13,000 in one day," said Hutson. "I've been told that is a lot more than the typical fundraising auction collects."
Hutson said Dillinger and his wife, Judy, were touched by the turnout and people's willingness to help them.
"Uncle Walter wasn't feeling good back then, but he stayed there for the whole auction," Hutson remembers. "He enjoyed talking to all of his friends and neighbors. He wanted to be there to show people he cared about them."
Hutson said Dillinger's friends and the Viola community are now concentrating on supporting Judy, children Michael, Martin, and Sheila, and their families.
Dillinger was buried in the Mount Calm Cemetery on Thursday, Dec. 15, following funeral services at the Viola First Assembly of God.