James “Dillon” Venable

James "Dillon" Venable

Old soul, kind, smart
Good-hearted, loved everyone

The predominant theme across Dillon’s life was kindness. He always reached out to people who needed a friend; a kid at school who didn’t have other friends, people he just met, and to a homeless man during his class trip to Washington, D.C. He didn’t have any inhibitions about people, he loved everyone and wanted to engage with them and provide encouragement.

Dillon was very smart and never had to study for a test. During his high school years, he played Lacrosse and liked to go goose hunting with his father, who was his mentor and teacher. He also played the bass guitar and had a band called the Abolitionists. He spent two years at Towson University, first studying psychology and later showing an interest in becoming a history teacher.

In high school, he took a trip with People to People, an International Foundation that promotes cultural exchange and humanitarian opportunities. He enjoyed Australia and the experience so much he thought he might go back there to live one day.

Dillon worked for a company that built trusses, working his way into an office job as an estimator, a job he held for two years. On Sunday’s he came home to watch a favorite television show with his mom, enjoying that time together each week.

When Dillon was three, his nine-year-old sister, Kari, died in a car accident. Shortly thereafter when he was finished with his bedtime prayers, his mother was leaving the room. He yelled out: “Don’t worry, don’t forget.” She wasn’t sure where that came from, but later that became “their thing.” One saying, “don’t worry”, the other saying “don’t forget.”

One day Dillon came home unexpectedly from college and said “Mom, we have an appointment tomorrow, we are getting tattoos.” She had resisted this before, but when he showed her the tattoo he got in honor of Kari, she relented and went along to get the same one tattooed on her leg. She was touched that he wanted to keep Kari’s memory with him.

Dillon’s mother will miss their talks, “he taught me things about life, and encouraged me to do things I wouldn’t normally do.” His addiction has influenced her to be more compassionate about people with addictions and to reach out and help other parents. She has been an advocate in educating them about the dangers of opioids and how it changes the brain. She also periodically volunteers with a local a non-profit, Mariah’s Mission, that provides support groups and resources to empower families and individuals struggling with the effects of substance use disorder.

The importance of the support needed for family and of remembering the loved ones lost from addiction is something you “don’t forget.”

Dillon’s mother, Sherry Mitchell, was interviewed for this profile.

June 10, 1992-April 2, 2014
Age 21
Not known how long he lived with addiction

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