January 28, 2019
It is with a very heavy heart that I report the passing this past Friday of Sandra Elaine Dixon, my wonderful wife and the marvelous mother of our sons. Cervical cancer took her down a painful road, but she is at peace with her recently-departed mother and the other ancestors.
I have posted my hastily written and relatively un-edited notes below, but it all comes down to this: Sandra was a gracious, graceful, insightful, intelligent, powerful, productive and loving Black woman. Being able to share some 31 plus years of my life with her was the most special of all blessings. I loved her deeply and will miss her terribly.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 3rd, 3:00 pm, at the First Unitarian Congregational Society, 119 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. If possible, please RSVP. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the YWCA of Brooklyn or to the Central Brooklyn Martin Luther King Commission.
THE INCOMPLETE STORY OF SANDRA ELAINE DIXON
Sandra Elaine Dixon passed away on Friday, January 25, 2019 at her home in Brooklyn, New York. She was 58 years old.
Sandra was born on September 28, 1960 in New Haven, Connecticut, to Samuel Edgar Dixon and the late Winifred Louise Virtue Dixon, both of New Haven. Sandra was a granddaughter of Florence Sinclair Virtue and William Virtue as well as Edgar Dixon and Eva Dixon.
Sandra’s mother was a teacher in the New Haven public schools, and Sandra attended public schools, graduating from James Hillhouse High School in 1978. She was an industrious student who earned academic recognition as well as numerous awards for her accomplishments in sports. She was a member of the softball team (for which she received an award at her graduation), the swimming and diving teams, and the volleyball team. Sandra was also adventurous. After graduation, she and friend Marcia Mayfield back-packed together through Europe.
Sandra loved music. Her father, a jazz-era drummer, and her mother introduced Sandra to jazz, swing and classical music, while her elder half-brother, Samuel Dixon, Jr., introduced her to The Beatles and the popular sounds of the 1960s and 1970s. Sandra revered the cello, an instrument she started playing at a very young age. She was a student at New Haven’s Neighborhood Music School and her prowess earned her seats in the New Haven All-City Orchestra and the Connecticut All-State Orchestra.
Sandra was a very proud alumna of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1982. She had a strong interest in Anthropology and Women’s Studies as well as the arts. At Clark, she continued her involvement with sports, excelling at diving as well as softball.
After graduation, Sandra moved to Washington, DC, to work for the newly-elected U.S. Representative Bruce Morrison (D-CT). She enthusiastically embraced Washington and enjoyed her work on Capitol Hill for several years. While in DC, Sandra also worked for various organizations before making a dramatic change by shedding office life and becoming a bicycle courier. Sandra absolutely loved her time as a courier, which came to a sudden end due to an automobile driver’s carelessness. While recuperating from her accident, she decided open a different door and pursue a Master’s degree in public policy. Sandra was accepted to the Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, now known as The Milano School, at The New School for Social Research in New York City.
It was just after her acceptance by The New School that Sandra met Christopher R. Owens of Brooklyn, New York, at the New Haven wedding of her childhood friend Kim Wells and his college roommate, Dr. Guy Fish. After moving to New York City, Sandra forged a deep friendship and a loving relationship with Chris. They had so much in common and shared so many interests. Chris and Sandra were married on September 15, 1990 at the Chilmark, Massachusetts, home of Sandra’s cousins Patricia Epps Taylor and Howard Taylor.
The wedding itself was held on a classic, beautiful Martha’s Vineyard day, and the attendees were merry despite their journey on dirt -- actually muddy -- roads. Chris and his roommate group were close, calling themselves “Olympians” and “elevating” each spouse and child to join them on the Mountain over time. At this wedding, Sandra was elevated as Aphrodite to join her new husband, Apollo.
In 1997, Sandra and Chris celebrated the birth of Elijah Dixon Owens (now preparing to graduate from Earlham College), who was followed three and a half years later by Sampson Omari Dixon Owens (currently attending New England College). These good boys have become gallant gentlemen and meant everything to Sandra. She was as much a role model for her boys as any mother or father could ever be.
Sandra Dixon enjoyed many years as a transportation professional and civic leader. She joined the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey as a management trainee in July, 1989 and remained with the agency until her retirement in October, 2018. Her rites of passage included experiences that she loved, such as climbing around the George Washington Bridge. Sandra loved the PANY&NJ, defended it fiercely, and enjoyed the various positions she held while with the agency. Always industrious, she received commendations for her work on various projects – as well as for excellent attendance. She considered herself to be a true transportation planner and someone pursuing environmental justice as well.
In her adopted Brooklyn community of Prospect Heights, Sandra became active with the local block association and several advocacy groups. She joined the local Neighborhood Advisory Board to assist local non-profits who were fighting poverty using government funds. She joined the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Teen Pregnancy Network, eventually becoming its President, as well as the Board of NARAL-NY. Sandra was committed to the Brooklyn YWCA, whose Board she joined, eventually becoming its President as well. She was very proud of the fact that her very young son, Elijah, could recite without hesitation his understanding of the YWCA’s mission – “the empowerment of women and girls and the elimination of racism.”
Sandra Elaine Dixon loved politics and considered herself a die-hard Progressive Liberal. The roots of this passion were in the education she received from her active parents in New Haven. However, her time in Washington and her involvement with her husband fueled the flame and provided her with opportunities to contribute in important ways. Sandra was proud to assist the re-election campaigns of her late father-in-law, U.S. Representative Major R. Owens, and was an energetic supporter of the City Council, School Board, Congressional and Democratic State Committee campaigns waged by her husband. She enjoyed the fact that the relative anonymity of her last name enabled her to obtain political intelligence she might never have had access to if she had been labeled as an “Owens.” She despised Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and engaged in a permanent boycott of the Barclay’s arena.
Sandra joined the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, and was a founding member of the Paul Robeson Independent Democrats (PRIDE) of Prospect Heights. In 1992, she was a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in New York City on behalf of the late Senator Paul Tsongas. Her grace, intelligence and charm made Sandra very popular with everyone she knew and worked with, including many of New York’s elected officials. Sandra’s husband repeatedly offered to serve as her campaign manager should she ever decide to seek office herself.
People knew and appreciated Sandra’s sense of style and adventure. She was a devotee of the simple and elegant look of Jackie Kennedy as well as the eccentric magic of Grey Gardens and “Little Edie” Beale. She loved Johann Sebastian Bach, The Beatles, Journey, the Ohio Players, Patsy Cline, Parliament Funkadelic, Diane Arbus and Robert Rauschenberg, amongst many others. In recent years, Sandra had the pleasure of developing friendships with a group of incredible women who all shopped at Hooti Couture on Flatbush Avenue. Sandra loved being a “Hooti girl” and, while she resisted spending too much money, she could not resist spending hours in the shop enjoying the incredible vintage clothing selection and assisting others with their selections. When Hooti closed, Sandra was heartbroken.
Sandra Dixon cherished her family. She was proud of her heritage and lineage, and she was surrounded by loving, strong and accomplished women from her mother to her cousins. They gave Sandra the confidence and support to be the confident, independent and daring soul that she was. Sandra loved her friends, finding wonder and value in everything they said and did. From the early years in New Haven, through college, DC and New York, Sandra found and nourished friendships. It should also be noted, however, that Sandra did not suffer fools gladly. In her own graceful and thorough way, she weighed and measured everyone, and distanced herself from those who were found to be sexist, racist or superficial.
In 1989, Sandra was diagnosed with optic neuritis - deterioration of her vision due to problems with the optic nerve. A few years later, her diagnosis was upgraded to Multiple Sclerosis or “MS.” Sandra endured many trials and tribulations due to MS, but she stayed strong, focused and extremely active. Parenting was her special joy and she always wanted to give her boys as much of her as she could. For her, this meant putting aside the fatigue, pain and general inconveniences brought on by MS.
On September 11, 2001, Sandra’s life, like that of so many others, changed forever. The catastrophic events of that day directly impacted her agency, her physical workplace, her colleagues, and possibly her own longevity. As a member of the disaster resumption planning team formed after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Sandra made many trips to and through the World Trade Center site post-9/11.
Sandra was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April, 2017. Her journey through surgery, radiation treatments and chemotherapy was a long one but, in reality, so short. She remained strong and optimistic until this particularly aggressive and resilient strain of cancer wrestled her down in November, 2018. Then, on December 30, Sandra lost her mother and her own strength started to melt away.
Sandra is survived by her husband, her sons, her father and numerous Virtue and Dixon cousins. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the YWCA of Brooklyn www.ywcabklyn.org and the Central Brooklyn Martin Luther King Commission www.cbmlkcommission.org.
In the end, we do not know why Sandra was called to take this hard journey up and beyond “Mount Olympus” to the ancestors. This is part of the great mystery that Sandra embraced.
What we do know, however, is that this strong, brilliant, beautiful woman was an irreplaceable treasure and she made our world a better place while she was in it.
What we also know is that, though she did not get to share this truth with everyone, Sandra was grateful to every person who helped her on her way, every person who shared the experiences, and every person who cared for her in so many ways.
May Sandra Elaine Dixon’s memory be a blessing to all and, when not dancing with the ancestors, may she rest in peace.