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Dixie Lee Etheridge Turnbo

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Dixie Lee Etheridge Turnbo

Hattiesburg, MS

Dixie Turnbo died on February 12, 2011 at her home in Hattiesburg, MS. Visitation will be from 5p til 8p Tuesday, February 15 at Hulett Winstead Funeral Home. The services will be held Wednesday February 16 at 2pm with visitation from 1p to 2pm at the Hickory Grove Methodist Protestant Church of Sumrall, MS.

Dixie was born August 6, 1954 in Greenville, MS to David and Ruth Etheridge. She attended Greenville Public schools graduating from Greenville High School in 1971. She received her Associate Arts degree from Mississippi Delta Junior College (1973), her bachelors from Delta State University (1975), her masters in English from Delta State University (1976) and her masters in Speech Pathology from University of Southern Mississippi(1978). While at Delta State University, she was an announcer for the band, a member of the Credentials Committee for the Student Government, president of Lamda Iota Tau, and a member of the Literary Honor Society. Meeting with the President of Delta State University, she challenged the administration to participate in a handicap awareness day which included spending the day navigating the campus in a wheelchair. Some of the participants were Dr. Jack Gunn, Coach Margaret Wade, Dr. Kent Wyatt, and O. W. Reilly. At the end of the day, they were convinced that accessibility of the campus would be improved. She met her husband, James Turnbo, while they were students at Delta State. They married in May 1981 and lived in Dumas, AR where they both taught in the public schools. They moved to Hattiesburg, MS in 1987. Dixie taught at Thames Elementary until 1997. She was an instructor at USM while working on her doctorate degree.

Dixie contracted polio at the age of 11 months and was confined to a wheelchair due to the paralysis. She received treatment at Warm Springs, Georgia for many years. As a young girl she was the local March of Dimes poster child.

Dixie was allowed to attend the public schools with the provision that her mother would be there to attend to her physical needs. Dixie excelled academically and served in student government, on debate teams, a manager on the football team, and as a mentor. In 1975 the Greenville Optimist club sponsored Dixie in the Miss Wheelchair of Mississippi pageant. She claimed the title in July 1975 and entered the national pageant in which she was sponsored by the Capital City Optimist Club of Jackson. She was crowned Miss Wheelchair America 1976 in Columbus, OH on September 28, 1975. Greenville named September 25, 1975 as Dixie Etheridge Day and she was presented the state's highest honor, Governor Bill Waller's "Outstanding Mississippian Award". Dixie was a scheduled guest on the Johnny Carson Show in January, 1976. As Miss Wheelchair America, Dixie met with governors, congressmen, U.S. presidents, and made a commercial with Bob Hope. She was named a member of the President's Committee on Employment for the handicapped. She addressed the U.S. Congress twice. She served on the committee that authored the American Disability Act. Dixie had a physical handicap but never allowed that to limit her goals. She was a tireless advocate for others with handicaps and through her endeavors the doors have been opened for millions with disabilities.

Dixie fought the battle of polio, paralysis, scoliosis, breast cancer, post polio syndrome, kidney stones, esophageal cancer and many other maladies with the courage of a warrior and the spirit of a champion.

Dixie had many interests; her love for God, people, animals and life gave her various adventures. She enjoyed gardening, crafting, fishing, traveling, games of any sort, and teaching most of all. She will be remembered for many things- among them her beautiful smile, her quick intelligence, her positive attitude, marvelous wit, insight and her deep spiritual faith.

She was preceded in death by her parents, and a sister Mary Ruth Etheridge.

She is survived by her husband, James Turnbo of Hattiesburg, MS; a brother, David Etheridge, Jr. (Connie) of Greenville, MS, a sister, Debbie Waldrop (Gene) of Madison, MS, nephews, Trae Etheridge (Melinda) of Brandon, MS and Terry Etheridge (Jessica) of Greenville, MS, a niece, Rossie Waldrop Medlin (Jayson)of Austin, AR, and her beloved friends, Peter Clark of Madison, MS and Sandra Stillman of Greenville, MS.

Her family gives special thanks for the devoted care given to her in the last years of her life by friends Vicki Leighton, Marty Broadus, Vicki Heep, David and Mara Edwards, and the loving people at Forrest General Hospice including Meg Paul and Pam.

She will be missed by all who were blessed to share her life. She was a Hero to family and friends.

Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.

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Published in the Hattiesburg American on Feb. 14, 2011
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