Laurie Theresa Harbort
Readers of the Catholic Leader during the period 1955 to 1980
A tribute to Dorothy Vivian Dixon, written by her daughter Paula.
My Mum, was born to Roy and Peg Hickmott on Thursday the 2nd of March 1931, in Roma. She was the middle child, after Val and June and before Tom and Pat. When Mum was a very young girl, the family packed up their belongings in a retired Cobb and Co coach and headed north, finally settling in Richmond, North Queensland. Mum grew up a country girl; riding her horse Twinkle, picnicking in the bush, killing snakes as required and swimming in the Flinders River. She attended Catholic schools and church, played tennis, basketball, and she won a number of trophies playing bowls. Knowing Mum, she was the belle of the many balls she attended with her sister June and friends.
In 1951 the new Postal Clerk and Telegraphist in Richmond, spotted her gorgeous auburn hair from the top floor of the Royal Hotel and made it his mission to get to know her. He, John Neville Dixon, my Dad, married her on the 18th of May, 1952. My Sister Helen was born in April the following year, my brother Barry arrived in February 1961 and I arrived in January 1970. Mum and Dad moved around for Dad's work.
They lived at various times in Richmond, Ilfracombe, Miriam Vale and Warwick before retiring to live on the Gold Coast.
Mum had a lot of jobs in her life starting as the companion to the mother of Col Murray VC. She was a cook at Richmond Hospital, a waitress with her sister June at the Bluebird Café, a dental nurse and an Avon lady. When I was almost school age, Mum discovered Hobbytex and what started as a small party plan business became a career. When we moved to Warwick, Mum's Hobbytex really took off and I remember her traveling all around Queensland and New Zealand building her team of sales people, motivating them with the knowledge she gained from the seminars she attended and becoming a Hobbytex Divisional Manager in both Australia and New Zealand. Over the many years Mum worked for Hobbytex I lost count of the number of times Mum was #1 in Australia for sales but I do know that she won 6 overseas trips, 3 company cars and made many good friends during that time.
Mum was clever with her hands and was adept at anything she turned her attention to, such as painting, hat making, doll making and patch-working. She could even play the electronic organ and one of her special pieces was the love theme from Dr Zhivago, Somewhere My Love which was played at the beginning of her service. The whole family heaved a sigh of relief when she learned that one as it made a nice change of pace from "On Top of Old Smokey" which was her previous favourite.
As everyone in the family (and probably quite a few friends) know, my Mum could sew. And I am not talking about just whipping up simple dress! My Mum made everything from Nun's habits, to ball gowns, suits, lingerie and most importantly, wedding dresses. She made beautiful wedding dresses for my sister Helen, sister-in-law Kath, and myself, deb dresses for her grand-daughter Marnie and myself, along with many other special occasion dresses for friends and family. She made amazingly detailed "Heritage" doll's clothes and at a number of times throughout her life, she taught sewing as well. When I was growing up, I only had to show Mum a picture of what I wanted to wear and within a day or two she'd made it for me, including a spectacular electric blue velveteen jumpsuit with matching bolero that I felt very sophisticated in at my Year 8 disco. My niece Tammy as a young girl was watching mum make her a tracksuit one day and commented "Your hands look very old Grandma." Mum was a bit taken aback and replied, "These hands are making your tracksuit!". Tam's always been a quick thinker so she replied "Oh but they're very clever hands Grandma!"
As if that wasn't enough, Mum was a spectacular cook. In talking to family and friends over the last few days, everyone had an opinion of what Mum's best dish was and fond memories of when they last shared it with Mum. We had trouble deciding over Mum's roast dinners, her mango and paw paw chutney, her scones, her rocky road, her black forest cake, her lemon meringue and key lime pies or her spaghetti (which no one else has ever been able to exactly replicate). We did eventually decide on Mum's German Coffee Cream cake as the winner which Mum used to make for her son-in-law Ade's birthday. We have all the recipes but no one will ever be able to match up to the memory of Mum's wonderful cooking.
In the early 80s, Mum bought 2 Franklin Mint dolls and named them Billy (after Prince William) and Amelia. For a little while they were a bit lonely sitting in a cabinet together but Mum never did anything halfway; she bought another doll, and then another and another until she had a whole room full of them. Her sister June was also an avid doll collector and the two of them spent some wonderful times together fossicking at markets and attending Doll shows. Sometimes Mum and Auntie June would even have a stand there to sell dolls, although I am pretty sure (and Dad would back me up on this) that Mum probably bought more than she sold on those occasions. Doll collecting must be in the blood though, because my sister Helen and I both have collections of our own. Over recent years Mum has given her daughters, grand-daughters, great-granddaughters and even my brother Barry some of her most precious dolls for us to treasure in her memory.
Mum was fortunate enough to travel the world and she loved to experience new places with her family and close friends. While she won her trips to Fiji, Noumea, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand, when she retired she travelled even more. She visited China, Tibet, the USA, toured Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland and cruised the Caribbean Unfortunately for Dad, Mum was an early adapter to technology. I say unfortunately because Mum had one of the early home video cameras weighing a ton which she took on her travels and Dad had to lug it all around Europe. Mum loved to share the good times so when she was on her cruise, she made sure she taught as many other passengers as she could how to play her favorite card game. Even on her travels Mum was always looking for those special dolls she couldn't find anywhere else. As Auntie Pat tells it, Mum was usually the first one off the tour bus so she could hunt down an antique shop or market, often being late for or missing out on lunch altogether so she could keep shopping, with Dad right beside her, carrying her purchases.
When Mum and Dad moved to the Gold Coast they found a beautiful house on the lake where Mum could see the mountains which was one of her requirements in any house they bought. Mum loved sitting out the back looking across the lake at the mountains while enjoying a cuppa. She loved her roses, orchids and fruit trees, most of which were acquired from family and friends. But she never sat still for long and was always sewing, cooking and once she discovered the Internet and eBay, spent many happy hours both buying and selling dolls. She also discovered line dancing and would head out with her friend Kath, dressed in her boot-scooting attire and dance for hours. Mum was fortunate enough to be surrounded by family at the Gold Coast and Brisbane which allowed her to spend a lot of time with her great-grandchildren; Alyssa, Sienna, Olivia and Nicholas. Watching them as they grew and celebrating their many achievements was one of Mum's great delights.
In the last few years Mum struggled with Parkinson's Disease. I say struggled but what I mean is fought and fought hard. Mum hated the disease that forced her to slow down and right to the last was determined not to let it stop her from doing the things she wanted to do and mostly, she succeeded with the help and support of Dad and my sister Helen.
Mum had a wicked sense of humour which I think is best captured in an old family story from just before my time. Mum and Dad were traveling from Raymond Terrace to Ilfracombe with Helen and Barry in the car and Mum was driving. As I heard it Mum must have fallen asleep at the wheel and the car, a Holden station wagon rolled into a ditch. Everyone was okay but the police were called and since Mum didn't have her licence with her, Dad said that he was driving. As the officer gave Dad a lecture on the dangers of driving while tired, Mum chimed in "Oh officer, it never would have happened if I was driving!".
That was my Mum. She was headstrong, ambitious and fearless, always striving to be the best at anything she did including a game of "May I" which she hated losing. She was always perfectly dressed, whatever the occasion. She would be first down to the jetty when someone had a fish on the line, camera in one hand and landing net in the other. She laughed a lot, loved her family and friends fiercely and was generous with her time, talent and love. Dad was lucky to find her and we have all been blessed to have her in our lives. Mum really did live her life to the fullest and now that she is gone we will hold tight to the memories she has left us with and treasure the time we had with her.
The music selected accompanying the slideshow presentation at her funeral was Moon River, the song Dad used to serenade Mum with on the mouth organ... Until she made him stop!
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