This is the obituary as it appeared in the Ventura County Star newspaper. What follows the obituary is the written version of the eulogy given for Robert by his niece, Candace Crow, at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park on 18 July, 2013.
Please feel free to sign the guest book (scroll to bottom of the page) to share a memory of Robert or a message to Robert's family and friends.
Our beloved Robert Arthur Dixon passed from this life on Saturday, July 13, 2013, in Simi Valley, CA.
Robert was born February 19, 1934, in Calvin, Oklahoma. He came to California in 1940, living in various locales around the state, with the majority of his adult life spent in Ventura County.
Robert was a special and unique individual, touching the lives of many. He was an unforgettable man; most people who knew Robert even briefly, never forgot his warm ways and infectious smile. Robert had an insightful and wonderful way of looking at the world; optimism, forgiveness, affection, humor, generosity, appreciation and gratitude were hallmarks of his captivating personality.
Robert spent many years working for the Arc Foundation in both Ventura and Kern Counties. He made many friends there; just as he did everywhere he went. He enjoyed many things in life, not the least of which was bowling for the Special Olympics, watching football, music, movies, games, comic books, collecting hats, gatherings of family and friends, and giving to others.
Robert is survived by his brother-in-law, Phil Crow and niece, Candace Crow, both of Ventura; his sister, Shirley Brown of Oxnard; as well as a large extended family and many friends and admirers. He was the eldest child of Jesse F. Dixon and Jessie S. Linker Dixon, and was preceded in death by them. He was also preceded in death by his brother, Eugene Dixon; and sister, Janet Dixon Crow.
Robert was a fine example of what it means to find pleasure and happiness in the little things in life; he was a great inspiration to many. While his absence will be keenly felt and he will be terribly missed, his presence and legacy are gifts that will always be cherished.
Visitation will be from 4pm until 8pm, Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at the Ted Mayr Funeral Home, 3150 Loma Vista Road, Ventura. Graveside services will take place Thursday, July 18, 2013, 11:30 am, at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, where Robert will be laid to rest next to his beloved parents and sister.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Robert's honor to ARC-Ventura County, 5103 Walker Street, Ventura, CA, 93003.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Ted Mayr Funeral Home, 3150 Loma Vista Road, Ventura.
This is the Eulogy given for Robert by his niece, Candace ("Candy") Crow, during his service on Thursday, 18 July, 2013, at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park in Ventura, CA.
Robert has a special place in my heart and always has had. He occupies a space there shared by my grandmother and my mom. While each of the three of them have their own unique, separate places reserved in my heart, there's a space there that the three of them occupy together as a unit. Every special occasion, every holiday, every family gathering that occurred - Grandma and Robert were always there, together- and so was Mom. The three of them sort of came as a package deal, and what a wonderful package deal it was. They were quite a special trio.
It is a peculiar and bittersweet feeling to be standing here today, laying Robert to rest alongside my beloved grandparents and my amazing, wonderful, beautiful mom. It is both excruciatingly painful, and at the same time, an oddly joyous occasion. The pieces of my heart that feel utterly broken over the tremendous loss of Robert are somehow soothed and feel some joy at the fact that that unit, that wonderful package deal, that special trio that is Grandma, Robert and Mom, is whole again. I know Grandma and Mom – as well as Grandpa, Uncle Eugene, and so many, many others – were overjoyed to welcome Robert back Home. How could they not be overjoyed? Robert is a treasure. One could not spend any time at all around him and not become aware of that.
Robert was a great teacher; he certainly has been one of my life's greatest teachers. I learned so many valuable things from him, as he had a wonderful way of looking at the world. If one would but stop and pay attention to his unique and insightful perspective, one could learn so much about living well and appreciating what life has to offer.
You know, people with disabilities have much to teach the rest of us. Some people use the term "differently abled" instead of "disabled". It may be a question of semantics to some, but if you think about it, "differently abled" is an apt term. The disabled have abilities that may be different from the rest of us, and in Robert's case, his so-called "disability" helped him to show many a way of looking at the world that they might not have otherwise done.
Robert was a special and unique individual, both because of, and in spite of, his developmental disability. Some people may have written him off or were sometimes dismissive of him because of the disability. Those people were missing out on something special. In my lifetime, I have heard Robert make many keen and insightful observations, some of which I'll share with you in a moment, but first I have to tell the story of the misguided bank teller, as this teller was one of the people who was missing out on the special lessons of the disabled and their lives' intrinsic value and worth.
Many years ago, my parents banked at what was then a small bank here in Ventura. It was before online banking, when people would actually go into banks to take care of things, and it being a small bank, my mom had gotten to know some of the tellers pretty well. One such teller struck up a conversation one day about the fact that her husband worked with developmentally disabled people. Mom, of course, then mentioned wonderful Robert. However, in the course of the conversation, this teller had the audacity – and shortsightedness – to say that she thought it "would've been better for them if those people had just never been born".
My initial reaction to this was flat-out anger. I was angry, of course, that the teller had been so insensitive and hurtful to Mom. I was also angry, as I have always felt fiercely protective of Robert – and Mom, too, for that matter. I was additionally angry that this woman also clearly had seemingly little respect for the developmentally disabled people her husband worked with.
However, as the initial flash of fury subsided into smoldering anger, and then that finally began to wane, a sense of pity for this misguided bank teller took over. I began to feel sorry for her. I mean, my goodness, she had access to some of the most beautiful souls on the planet, and she couldn't see that! How incredibly sad that she was missing out on the beauty with which people like Robert often view the world, the love and kindness they so freely exchange, the lessons that they have to teach us, the fact that most of them are wise old souls in bodies that some may view as broken, but are really actually perfect for their purposes here on Earth. Without their "differently abled" abilities, without their different and often judged appearances, without their different and often harshly judged behavior and ways of being in the world, would many notice them and hear or learn the lessons of great value they have to teach those around them?
Being different and being misunderstood gets peoples' attention. People don't tend to notice "sameness". Something or someone being different is what it takes for people to sit up and take notice. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood." So, one can say that developmentally disabled and other "differently abled" people are pure and wise spirits that take on flesh. They are great spirits that take on being misunderstood in order to create understanding, learning, compassion, insight and wisdom in others.
My hope for that terribly misguided bank teller is that she came to understand just what she was missing and that she came to respect and now has compassion for the disabled people her husband worked with, as well as all "differently abled" persons. I hate to think of the lessons she's otherwise missing, as well as the joy she could be missing out on.
I mentioned a moment ago that Robert was a great teacher and that he has made many keen and insightful observations. There have been many times that Robert surprised me with his insight. Sometimes one can forget that adults with developmental disabilities are still adults. Sure, part of what makes them so amazing and wonderful can be the child-like qualities many of them have about them, but make no mistake, these wise souls are still adults, and many have grown-up, adult perspectives on things. Over the years, on more than one occasion while watching the news with Robert, I have heard him comment on things that some adults don't even bother to pay attention to. He's commented on war, gangs, guns, crime, natural disasters, and more. His commentary was along the line of war never being good, that gangs are also not good and the gang members are in need of love and good families, that guns and crime hurt everyone, and that natural disasters are also bad, but tend to bring people together. Wow. How amazing is that perspective? Whenever Robert would come up with something like that, I would at once be both dumbstruck and yet, not surprised in the least. His sage perspective was always a reminder to me that behind that sometimes child-like persona was really a wise man.
We all know Robert loves superhero stuff, as well as science fiction. Robert's perspective on various things has led me to consider that his penchant for superhero-themed comic books and movies is founded upon his insight into the human condition and knowing that all people, deep down, just want to be heard, understood, and loved. Team this with Robert's compassionate and loving heart, as well as his desire to help others, and well, in him, one has a superhero amongst them. Robert was definitely a superhero in his own right; he will always be my superhero. I also think his leanings toward comic books and sci-fi has everything to do with his creative spirit and being able to see the possibility in things. Robert didn't necessarily always see things as they were; he saw things as they could be in the purest sense of creative potentiality.
Robert taught me some less esoteric and more everyday sorts of things as well. When I was a kid, he and my grandparents lived on some acreage in Bakersfield. Robert taught me how to gather eggs from their chickens, as well as how to feed the chickens and many of the other animals. I was always fascinated by the animals, but equally fascinating was watching Robert with animals; he treated then with such love and kindness. They always responded to Robert; it is as if they knew how special he is.
Robert's way with animals probably earned him quite a greeting when he left this life and went Home. In addition to all of the people who were doubtlessly overjoyed to see him, I have a hunch he was welcomed Home by countless dogs, cats, horses, mules, cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals that he cared for – and cared for him - during his time on Earth.
I spent a lot of time in Bakersfield at my grandparents' when I was a kid. During those times, in addition to showing me how to care for the animals, Robert also taught me how to play checkers, dominoes, and various card games, such as Go Fish, War, and Old Maid. He was quite good at all of the games and was always a gracious winner or loser. Playing those games with him is a memory I cherish.
Robert was a great teacher in many other ways as well. He was born in Calvin, Oklahoma in 1934. (He would, by the way, always proudly announce when asked, that he was born February 19.) Being born at that place in time likely contributed to being a great teacher, for one is not born to such adversity without it lending plenty of wisdom and perspective. He came to California in 1940, and had a pretty hard life starting out. That, plus the fact that Robert was incredibly compassionate, gave him a strong sense of gratitude for all he had. It also made him an enormously giving and generous person.
With regard to being giving and generous, I have here in my hand an envelope I've had since 1990. In it are four quarters, a nickel, and three pennies. This is the most valuable $1.08 I've ever had. In 1990, for a special occasion, Grandma and Robert had bought me a gift. However, Robert wanted to give more, so he reached into his pocket and gave me all of the money he had. Emptying his pockets, he said, "Here, this is for you." It was every last cent he had on him. He gave it all. The point is not that he gave me $1.08. The point is he gave me everything he could, down to literally his last penny. I was tempted not to take it at the time, as it was all he had on him right then, but I knew the true worth of the gift; the gift was not just the money. The gift was being the recipient of his generosity. That was Robert's way; he was an incredibly generous person. So, I have kept this $1.08 all these years. I do not intend to ever part with it, as to me, it is a symbol of Robert's selfless generosity and giving nature. It is also symbolic of another lesson he taught me that day about being generous, giving, and above all, grateful.
Robert absolutely loved giving gifts, especially for birthdays and Christmas. He loved holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas. He would always start getting antsy in early autumn with regard to Christmas shopping. Halloween might not even be over yet, but he'd start in on Mom and Grandma about needing to get his Christmas shopping done. Fortunately, Mom and Grandma, being wonderful giving souls themselves, were patient with Robert and invariably took him shopping, although they usually convinced him to wait at least until Halloween had passed.
While Christmas and Halloween were his favorite holidays, he also loved other holidays as well. He'd want to decorate for whatever any given holiday was, and he didn't necessarily stop at home décor. One would frequently find Robert in holiday attire, whatever the holiday might be. My mom made him a number of decorated t-shirts for various holidays, which Robert always wore proudly. For Easter, he loved a good egg hunt. For the Fourth of July & other flag-related holidays, Robert always wanted to be sure the flag was flying out in front of the house.
The fact that Robert loved celebrating all holidays, as well as his birthday and the birthdays of others is another valuable lesson. The lesson is this: if you enjoy something, do it. As adults, we tend to become jaded about things, but not Robert. He clearly thought celebrations should be numerous. He loved celebrations, so Robert didn't waste any holidays; he celebrated them all.
Robert spent many years working for the Arc Foundation in both Ventura and Kern Counties. He didn't make a lot of money (which makes that $1.08 even more valuable to me), but he was always proud of the money he made and would often show his pay checks. Simply put, he was proud of the work he did, as well as proud and grateful of what he earned for it. It didn't matter to him how big or how small his checks might have been. It's that he contributed to something and made something back as a result. Being productive was important to him.
Another thing Robert made at ARC was friends. He made many while there, just as he did everywhere he went. Some of his ARC friends were still his friends up until the day he left this life to go Home. He had a way of captivating people with his infectious smile and laugh, as well as with his warm personality, helpful nature and patience. People did not soon forget Robert. In fact, I've had nurses and other staff at hospitals both here in Ventura, as well as in Simi Valley, remember Robert from past hospital stays. He simply is unforgettable; most people who knew Robert even briefly never forgot his warm ways and that infectious smile.
One of the things that make Robert unforgettable is how he took pleasure in so many things. It always took very little to make him happy. He enjoyed many things in life, not the least of which was bowling for the Special Olympics, watching football, music (Elvis in particular), singing, movies, games, comic books, creating art, and so much more. He took pleasure in, and was content with, simple things. He was also grateful for all those simple things. It could be something as simple as going to the store for a comic book, soda and candy bar, then sitting and enjoying himself with these things for him to be happy and content. We probably all should be so grateful and easy to please.
Another thing that Robert took a lot of pleasure in was TV. He liked to watch a lot of movies and science fiction, of course, but two things that he enjoyed watching were enjoyable for some of the rest of us as well. While watching football games, especially The Rams, one would frequently hear cheering and whooping coming from his room. It was always a wonderfully hilarious thing to hear. Then he'd emerge from his room during a commercial to update you on the game, whether you were a football fan or not! One could also often hear laughter coming from his room whenever he'd watch something funny. Invariably, hearing him laugh would cause the rest of us to laugh. Robert had that infectious smile and laughter that one couldn't help but laugh or smile back. He could make you smile or laugh without even being aware he was doing so.
Like I said, Robert took pleasure in the simple things, which is a valuable lesson in this life.
I must quote Ralph Waldo Emerson again: "The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common." Robert, wise soul that he is, often saw the miraculous in the common. I had a very recent example of this make my jaw drop. During Robert's hospital stay, I watched him one afternoon eating his lunch. He was having a fairly good day that day, but as he'd been having some not-so-good days, I was standing by, ready to help feed him if necessary. However, I was very happy to see he was eating his lunch with his usual gusto, when he suddenly paused, lowered his spoon, raised his eyes upward and said, "Thank you, Father, for my ability to eat." He paused for another brief moment, and then went back to fully enjoying his food. I could do nothing but stand there, completely awestruck. Here was this man, quite ill in the hospital, expressing gratitude for something most of us take for granted: the ability to enjoy food and feed ourselves. Robert most definitely could see the miraculous in the common.
Speaking of seeing the miraculous in the common, in a word: food. Oh, did Robert love food. He pretty much loved all food and was grateful for it. While there was little he didn't like – in fact, I am hard pressed to think of anything he didn't like – he of course liked some things more than others. It would not probably surprise you to hear me say he liked sweets (and of course he very much did), but he was very fond of a number of other things as well. I can just see him sneaking into the kitchens at various houses he and my grandparents lived in, quietly opening the refrigerator door so as not to be found out, then my grandma exclaiming, "Robert, you just get out of there right now!" Afterward, it was not an uncommon occurrence for American cheese wrappers to later be found stashed in his room.
Robert also enjoyed a green salad, probably more than I've ever seen anyone enjoy them, and particularly with bleu cheese dressing. I was so glad when he got to have some salads early in his last hospital stay. He needed a little help eating them, but thoroughly enjoyed them, nonetheless.
Robert also enjoyed beverages and tended to drink copious amounts of liquid. One of his favorites was iced tea; when he lived with Grandma, she'd make him a pitcherful every day. After Grandma passed, I tried to always bring him a cup of iced tea whenever I could. He was always grateful for such small gestures, and truth be known, I did it as much for my own enjoyment of watching him enjoy it, as I did for his own personal enjoyment of it.
Robert also enjoyed soda, particularly in restaurants. When he was more mobile, he frequently would get up for a refill and put a bit from every fountain in his cup, usually combining them all at once. When he became less mobile and needed someone to get a refill for him, he'd polish off the contents of his cup, then motion back and forth with his cup while saying, "Dead duck!" This would be one's cue to fetch him a refill. Upon drinking a soda or iced tea, he'd often make a slight "ah" sound, then comment that it was "good and cold".
One of the most valuable lessons Robert had to teach those in his life was about forgiveness. I had a recent conversation about this with John, my youngest brother. John commented, "Robert was kinder to the world than the world was sometimes to him." (That is so true; well said, John.) There are, unfortunately, many examples of this. However, despite that, Robert never became cynical or bitter. On the contrary, Robert invariably saw the good in others. An example of this goes back decades to when Robert lived in Montalvo and was selling cards in his neighborhood. One day, a group of teenage boys mugged Robert. They made fun of him, knocked him down, took his money, and knocked his glasses off. One of the boys evidently immediately felt bad about the incident, as he helped Robert up and gave him his glasses. When talking about the event, Robert made the comment that at least the one boy was "a pretty nice guy", explaining that he had helped Robert up and retrieved his glasses for him. It takes a lot to forgive something like a cruel and heartless mugging, but Robert had it in him to do so. We all should probably be so forgiving and patient.
It is so hard to let this amazing man go. I try to remind myself that we were so incredibly lucky to have had Robert for so long. For someone that was unlikely to live past 30-40 years, to have made it to age 79 is miraculous; it is a testament to Robert's tenacity, strength and will, as well as to the level of care and love he received from my grandmother, Mom, and others whom have cared for him. A recent visit from a psychiatrist while Robert was hospitalized illustrates this. This doctor, who has been a doctor for quite some time, told me this was her oldest patient ever from the developmentally disabled population she works with. She was amazed by Robert, and had difficulty even believing he was 79.
Emerson said, "It is not length of life, but depth of life." Robert, fortunately for all of us, had both length and depth of life. I still wish we had more time with him and am going to miss him beyond words, but I am grateful to have had him in my life as long as I did. I was incredibly, unbelievably lucky to have had such an amazing soul for an uncle.
Robert's absence will be keenly felt and he will be terribly, terribly missed, but his presence and legacy are gifts that will always be cherished. I hope, like me, you all can take some solace in the fact that Robert went Home to many more who love him, that his job on Earth was so well done, and be comforted in having known and been touched by his life and his example. And remember, when you encounter a "differently abled" person, remember Robert's legacy, and stop and consider yourself lucky, for you will have just come across someone incredibly unique and special.
Another of Robert's doctors, a wonderful woman of Filipino descent, told my mom some years ago that in her culture, it is considered good luck to have someone like Robert in the family. (I could not agree more.) Just last night, I asked two of Robert's care givers about this. They are the wonderful Estella and the amazing Adel (to whom we will always be grateful and who was like a guardian angel to Robert). Both of these beautiful souls are also from the Philippines. They both told me that the doctor was definitely correct; in the Philippines, everyone bands together around a family that has a special-needs family member. They told me that this is done, as nobody wants for the family to feel alone with a special-needs member. The special-needs person is respected, and the family is helped by all. How wonderful is that? This is as it should be everywhere.
So stop and pay attention to what differently-abled people have to teach, or you may miss out on something incredibly lucky and amazing. Even if it's just a fleeting encounter, stop and remember for a moment that you just encountered someone who is likely on a special mission, has much to teach those around him or her, has likely had a tremendous impact on the lives around them, and that you may even be entertaining an angel unaware. For all of you that ever knew Robert, that is exactly what you encountered with him.
I hope Robert's lessons and legacy live on in your hearts. I know those lessons, that legacy, and precious Robert himself, will always live in mine. Remember him. Remember our beloved Robert, that special life that had a profound and lasting effect on so many hearts.
And to you, Robert, I say, thank you for being you, and for showing so much love. Thank you for coming to Earth with all of your challenges and teaching the lessons you came forth to teach. Thank you, Robert, for being a blessing to so many and touching countless lives. Many lives have been richer and more meaningful because of you. We are so going to miss your gentle, affectionate, insightful, thoughtful, generous, humorous, creative, amazing, wise, loving ways. You are treasured, Robert. Thank you for your time here amongst us. We were fortunate and are ever grateful.