Turning 99 and 100 during a world-wide pandemic is definitely one for the record books—that is what Gladys Dixon has done.
Last September, Dixon celebrated her 99th birthday with her son, Terry, his wife, Janie, and their dog, Blue, visiting with her on her patio at Laurel Village. Other friends and family members did a drive-by birthday parade. The family was hoping to have a big celebration for her 100th birthday, but, with COVID on the increase, the event was limited to a very few close relatives – fully vaccinated, masked and socially distanced.
Born September 4, 1921, in the Langnau community of Laurel County, Dixon is the second of eight children born to Willie and Violet Gregory Vaughn. When Dixon was a young child, the family moved to a farm on Keavy Road about three miles from downtown London. She walked to the one-room school at Magill, to London High School and when the county started running school buses, she attended Lily High School her senior year. After graduating from high school, she attended Sue Bennett College.
During World War II, Dixon went to Dayton, Ohio to work at the Frigidaire factory making LSTs (tank transporters). Her Lily High School and Sue Bennett sweetheart, Jerry Dixon, was in the Army. Thinking he was going to be shipped overseas, they were married in 1944 on a weekend pass by the same minister that was holding a revival at Corinth Baptist Church when Dixon joined the Church several years earlier.
The couple returned to London and lived in a few different homes until they bought a house on East Third Street in London, where they raised their children, Wanda, Tom and Terry. Cumberland Falls State Park is a special place to the Dixon family. The two honeymooned at Dupont Lodge and they were active members of the Moon Beaus and Moon Belles Square Dance Club that met at Cumberland Falls.
Education has always been very important to Dixon. She taught school for a few years before going to Ohio during WWII. She even boarded with some of the families of her students.
After her children were in school, she went back to college and graduated from Eastern Kentucky University. She was a substitute teacher for the Laurel County Board of Education. In the 1960s, at the time of the national push to improve literacy in Appalachia, she was one of the first in Laurel County to work in the Head Start program. When federal grants became available, the Laurel County Board of Education established libraries in the elementary schools. Dixon became the first librarian at Sublimity and Johnson Elementary Schools, splitting her time between the two schools.
In 1966, the Dixon family moved to Erlanger, Kentucky, where Dixon was hired as librarian at Hebron Elementary School. In 1970, Connor High School was built and she became the school’s first librarian. She ended her career in education in 1986.
After retiring and until she moved to Laurel Village, Dixon spent winters in Largo, Florida and summers at her home in Erlanger. During the years after she moved away from London, she visited her family often and always came back for family reunions.
When the Laurel Village Assisted Living was built, Dixon put her name on the waiting list - just in case she needed to move in at some point. She received several calls through the years that there was an opening but she would say, “I’m not ready yet but don’t take me off the list”. At the age of 94, in the summer of 2016, and after 50 years, Dixon returned to London and moved to Laurel Village, where she would often say, “Laurel Village – just where I need to be at this stage of my life”.
Dixon loves to travel and with family and friends, she has visited nearly all of the states. She also traveled to Europe several times. For years, she made a trip to Minnesota every summer to visit her son, Tom, his wife, Marti, and her granddaughter, Erin. If it were possible, a visit to her grandsons, Stephen, Terry’s son, who lives in Georgia and Brian, Wanda’s son, and her great-grandchildren, Calvin and Veronica, who live in Illinois, would be in her travel plans.
Flowers and butterflies are Dixon's favorites. She always had beautiful flowers at her home. Today, there is a pot of Rain Lilies in the Shepherd Cove gardens with her name on them. A drive through London in the summer often resulted in her saying, “London needs to be in Southern Living to show off the beautiful flowers." Dixon loves to read and still receives several magazines, the Lexington Herald and the Sentinel-Echo. She has had a subscription to the Sentinel-Echo for years, reading every page to stay up with the goings on in London and Laurel County.
After her son Terry and his wife, Janie, retired they decided to sell their home in Georgia and move to London to be close to his mother. They were looking forward to spending more time with her. About the time they got fully settled in, the COVID pandemic hit. Visits were limited to through the patio door glass, outside on the patio or in a tent behind Laurel Village. The isolation from friends and family that came with COVID took a toll on not only Dixon but many that have been confined. In February 2021, Dixon made the move to the Shepherd’s Cove at Laurel Heights.
Then, on Saturday, Dixon celebrated her 100th birthday. Happy 100th Birthday, Gladys! A life well spent and a joy to all that know and love her.