Winona A. Dixon, 77, teacher's aide, activist

October 26, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Winona Adelaide Dixon, a former teacher's aide who became a civic activist and mentor to numerous students in Baltimore's public schools, died Thursday of a pulmonary embolism at Liberty Medical Center. She was 77.

For more than two decades, she worked with parents and teachers to develop tutoring programs for students with low test scores. She was so fiercely committed to public education that she would venture into public housing projects to find truants and take them to school.

She was an active member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, campaigned aggressively for politicians such as former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, now president of the NAACP, and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and was a volunteer at City Hall for one of her daughters -- Councilwoman Sheila Dixon.

"She felt so strongly about the need for education that she took it upon herself to go after kids when they didn't show up for school," said Velma Jeffers, a friend of the family.

Although it wasn't technically part of her job, "she would go into the projects in the inner city and find the kids to make sure they got to class," Ms. Jeffers said. "She wanted them to have a fighting chance. She was always looking for what she could do to make a difference."

The former Winona Adelaide Smith, affectionately known as "Nonie," was born and raised in Baltimore and graduated from Douglass High School in 1939.

After attending what is now Baltimore City Community College, Mrs. Dixon began working as a teacher's aide in 1962. From 1965 to 1985, she was a parent-teacher liaison, primarily at Steuart Hill Elementary in West Baltimore.

Besides developing tutoring programs and tracking down truants, she assisted students in reading, math and language arts and worked with parents through community programs in the schools. After her retirement, she remained active in her church and community.

She was a member for five years of the Women's Commission of Baltimore City; a volunteer for the Feeding the Hungry Program; cashier, registrar and distributor at the Bethel AME Food Co-op; and coordinator of the parents group at Echo House, a social services agency.

She was involved in several organizations promoting racial and religious understanding, and was corresponding secretary of the Association for the Study of Afro American Life and History.

She loved to cook and entertain, and traveled abroad several times, including a 1990 trip to West Africa. In 1993, she created and organized the Pre-Kwanzaa Market Place and Fashion Show at City Hall as a benefit for Jentry McDonald Corp., a shelter for abused and neglected children.

Her 20-year marriage to Phillip Dixon ended in divorce.

In addition to Councilwoman Dixon, survivors include another daughter, Janice Dixon of Baltimore; one of her two sons, Anthony Dixon of Chicago; four sisters, Ellen Greene, Chlorice "Sue" Ware, Mary Stanley and Katherine Settles, all of Baltimore; a brother, James Brown Jr. of Baltimore; an aunt, Margaret Ewing of Baltimore; five grandchildren; and her friend and companion, Alvin Wilson of Baltimore.

Services will be held at 11: 30 a.m. tomorrow at Bethel AME Church, 1300 Druid Hill Ave.

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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