Family, Friends Help WWII Vet Mark 100 Years

Family, Friends Help WWII Vet Mark 100 Years

OLGA HUNT (in front), a niece of Everette Dixon, reads one of his birthday cards to him during Sunday’s celebration. Another niece, Michelle Cooper, and Olga’s husband, Paul Hunt, listen. (Claudia Schwab photo)

Family, Friends Help WWII Vet Mark 100 Years

EVERYONE APPLAUDS just after Everett Dixon had blown out his birthday candles Sunday. On either side of the 100-year-old are Dixon’s two sons, Carlton Elliott (at left) and Quinton Elliott. (Claudia Schwab photo)

Family, Friends Help WWII Vet Mark 100 Years

CARLTON ELLIOTT (standing) shows his dad, Everett Dixon, a portrait of his father, James W. Dixon Jr., that he had just presented to him earlier on his 100th birthday. There is a great resemblance between his father and grandfather, Elliott said. (Claudia Schwab photo)

Strains of Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me” drifted into the living room as three members of Rockbridge County Fire-Rescue congratulated 100-year-old World War II veteran and Glasgow resident Private First Class Everett Dixon just as his birthday celebration was winding down Sunday.

Dixon, who earned four Bronze Stars after being wounded four times during his four years as a guard at a POW camp for Japanese prisoners, was duly honored by 30-40 relatives and friends coming from far and wide for the occasion.

Michelle Cooper, a niece who lives inthe Washington, D.C., area had organized the event. Not only had Cooper organized the celebration, but she said, “I abided by his wishes and took him home on June 15, 2017, from the nursing home to the house he had built and lived in since 1965.” she said.

“His health is great and he only had a little wax in his ear at his last doctor’s visit,” she added.

And Cooper should know about handling health and especially diet-related issues since she’s a retired Army Medical Service Corps officer and a professional nutritionist who’d worked 19 years for the government.

“My uncle was drafted out of the eighth grade,” she said during a discussion before the birthday celebration.

Everett Dixon had been born and come of age in Natural Bridge, but after coming home from WWII, he worked in construction jobs like helping in construction work at James Lees & Sons Carpet plant, which, in turn became Burlington and then, Mohawk Inc., and finally, Mohasco Corp., all very close to the house he built and now lives in again.

“I can remember he taught me how to do those circles up there,” said Cooper pointing at the ceiling’s circular designs.

Cooper also filled in a bit more about Dixon’s life.

“He also worked for about 23 years at Washington and Lee University doing maintenance, driving and parties for a fraternity,” she remembers.

While working at W&L, Dixon had the occasion to meet and get to know some of the visiting speakers, musicians such as B.B. King. John Amos, an actor who starred in “Good Times” and “Roots,” and family friend who had called him last year, wanted to come to this year’s celebration, but regretted not being able to come.

Dixon was also musician B.B. King’s driver when he came to W&L. One of Dixon’s two sons shared a picture of his dad and B.B. King that he had saved on his phone.

Almost conspicuous by their absence in his home are photos of Dixon from his World War II service days. Around the room were birthday cards, photos of other people but none of Dixon.

Interestingly though, Carlton Elliott, one of Dixon’s two sons who were present, made a presentation to his dad of a portrait of Dixon’s father, James W. Dixon Jr., who Everett Dixon strongly resembles, according to Elliott.

Another presentation that was made during the afternoon was a letter from Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam wishing Dixon a happy 100th birthday.

Probably the pinnacle of the afternoon, however, was after Dixon had finished eating food from the buffet offerings, he was presented with a green and white 100th birthday cake.

With the help of his two sons, Quinton and Carlton Elliott, the 100-year-old stood up to blow out the candles.

After the traditional “Happy Birthday” song was sung, the singing of the “Martin Luther King” Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder version got a lot of hips and feet moving.

Throughout the afternoon, Dixon sat mostly bent over a table near the entry to his house, either eating or talking, looking and listening. He obviously loved it whenever his niece Olga Hunt would read to him some of the multitude of birthday cards he’d received.

Dixon has one good eye which would look out toward the door when it opened for someone coming in, and at one point he said to someone nearby, “I didn’t know I had so many friends.”

His son Quinton Elliott quipped about the good eye glinting with a smile, “He’s trying to keep an eye on who’s coming in and out of this house.”

One of those who came through that door and sat closely to speak with Dixon at the table was Eric Wilson, the Rockbridge Historical Society’s executive director. Wilson talked to Dixon about the RHS program he recently presented during February’s Black History Month, at Natural Bridge State Park.

Looking through one of the Society’s books presented as a birthday gift, they patiently reviewed the Dixon family’s contribution to the more general history of Rockbridge County, particularly the community in Natural Bridge where they’d lived for generations. They discussed the work and social networks during the decades of segregation when Everett’s parents Annie and James ran a busy tourist home for African-American travelers, accounts that featured centrally in Wilson’s article, “Black Histories at Natural Bridge, from Jefferson to The Green Book.”

The day had started with Dixon being taken for church services at the First Baptist Church in Natural Bridge, which he helped to build, said Mark Eady, his cousin, who Dixon calls “his driver.’’

“The pastor told a story about driving to church from where he lives in Lynchburg and how when he went through Natural Bridge, he got stuck driving behind Mr. Dixon, who was always so cautious about his driving that they both ended up arriving late,” said Eady.

Eady moved here from California to live with his cousin last year and lives in Dixon’s house with him.

During the course of things, Eady has learned a great deal about his cousin.

Besides building his own house, Dixon also helped his dad build his mother’s house when he was 12 years old, Eady said.

“Her prefabricated house, which came in pieces, is what he (Dixon) took from the train to the construction site in a horse-drawn cart,” Eady recounted.

Eady reflected about the 100th birthday and how he thought it had gone for Dixon.

“He loved it today,” said Eady. “He loved all the birthday cards and enjoyed reminiscing with everyone and just loved the community spirit of it all.”

Finally, Dixon’s niece Michelle Cooper said, “Overall, this World War II veteran celebrated a wonderful 100th birthday with family and friends.

“PFC William Everett Dixon is just one of the many African-American veterans that have contributed to the success of this great nation,” she concluded.

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