Mary Ann Dixon, 94, loving family matriarch and churchwoman

Posted: May 21, 2014

MARY ANN Dixon liked the Mary J. Blige song "Just Fine," because it told how she felt about herself and her life:

I like what I see when I'm looking at me. I wouldn't change my life, my life is just fine.

The song was played when she walked into her 90th birthday party on the arms of her grandchildren, as sharp and feisty as ever.

Mary Ann was an old-fashioned family matriarch, devoted to her husband, children and grandchildren, over whom she fussed and spoiled.

She died May 10 at age 94. She lived in West Philadelphia, where she was chairwoman of the 100 block of North 51st Street.

After graduating from William Penn High School for Girls, Mary worked as a server in the doctors' cafeteria at Mount Sinai Hospital. She then worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard before going to the Frankford Arsenal as a keypunch operator, or data-entry specialist. She retired from there in October 1977.

Family legend has it that she met her future husband, John H. Dixon, in a candy store in Germantown. They were married in March 1942.

Mary was born in Rimini, S.C., to Solomon and Hattie Johnson James. The family came to Philadelphia when she was a child and she attended Smith Elementary School, Barratt Junior High and William Penn High, from which she graduated in 1939.

She joined Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Philadelphia, beginning a spiritual journey that led to her active membership in Greater St. Matthew Independent Church in West Philadelphia.

Mary and her husband enjoyed taking their children, Joanne Cecilia and Robert James, to family excursions, including Cape May, N.J.

When their grandchildren came along, Mary made sure they attended all of their football games, music recitals, swim meets, school plays and every graduation ceremony.

The family enjoyed traveling. They took at least 12 cruises to the Caribbean, and trips throughout the U.S.

Her husband died in 2001 after 59 years of marriage.

Mary was also a skilled seamstress, as well as a fine baker. She liked to treat her grandchildren to delicacies, and they remember with fondness strawberry Jell-O mold, cold oven pound cake and "yellow punch."

At Greater St. Matthew Church, Mary was steward emeritus, and a member of the Mahlon M. Lewis Guild and the trustee aides. She was ready and willing to undertake any task the church needed doing. Her devotion earned her the Unsung Hero Award, presented on April 14, 2002.

"Her pleasant, classy approach was apparent to all who met and loved her," her family said in an obituary. "She never had a bad word to say about anyone."

Mary was a founding sponsor for the National Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., and contributed regularly to World Vision International in support of an African child.

Besides her daughter, Joanne Cecilia Cannon, and son, Robert J. Dixon Jr., she is survived by a sister, Sarah Reid; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services: Were Saturday. Burial was in Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester.

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