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Daniel Rhodes Dixon

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Daniel Rhodes Dixon Obituary
Daniel Rhodes Dixon
May 15, 1925 ~ July 9, 2009

Daniel Rhodes Dixon was born May 15, 1925 and died July 9, 2009. The scion of two celebrated Californians, photographer Dorothea Lange and painter Maynard Dixon, Daniel was 84.

Daniel did not like standard obituaries. He found them "lifeless" and "without heartbeat." As a journalist for the Monterey County Post, Mr. Dixon displayed witty self-deprecation in preparing his own obituary, "Autobiobit," wherein he quoted his famed mother, the late photographer, as describing her (first) son as "irregular." He admitted he was "an incorrigible truant who dropped out of school in the tenth grade to become a wandering delinquent." Mr. Dixon humorously boasted that he "was probably the only man ever to be offered and to turn down the job of picture editor for Playboy Magazine."

Daniel's life and career were marked by excellence. His career ranged from writing articles for such publications as Pageant, Life, and Look Magazines to advertising for agencies that included Carson & Roberts and Doyle Dane Bernbach, rising to creative director at both McCann Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather by the 1980s. Among his prize-winning campaigns were the famed Volkswagen ads of the early to mid-60s and the billboards and TV spots which defined the Bug as a charming and reliable, if eccentric, companion. Directing his creative talents into politics, Mr. Dixon helped shape campaigns for the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, mayors of New York and Chicago, and President of the United States.

Indeed, to his final days he maintained a remarkable acuity of mind, with an ability to bring to light the contours, values, and colors of life and relationships. In later years, he traveled the world giving presentations about his parents' lives and work, describing his impressions of his mother as "perhaps blurred by emotion, but unclouded by scholarship." He wrote a memoir of his father called The Thunderbird Remembered.

While his father was a painter with pigments, Daniel was a painter with words. Cooking and communication were his main fortes. He had a unique friendship with the English language and used words with a courting nature. Of cooking, he wrote, "Beats writing - nobody dares tell you when it's lousy."

He also rejoiced in the company of his ukulele, which he believed had a mind and heart of its own. He played it proudly, mostly ditties from the 20s and 30s "guaranteed to induce groans of dismay." He was certain that his old comrade would miss him when he was gone. His last work, the capstone of his life as a writer, is a book on the ukulele.

Mr. Dixon described his wife as "his greatest joy and comfort in or out of this world." In "Autobiobit," he wrote that in death he is only temporarily apart from his wife Dixie. "Mr. Dixon did not know whether or not he believed in God, but he did believe that this marriage would last forever, even after death."

Daniel is also survived by his daughter, screenwriter Leslie Dixon, his brother John, his grandson Thomas, 3 stepchildren, 8 step-grandchildren, a niece, 2 nephews, and "at last count, more friends than enemies."

At the request of Daniel, no memorial services will be held. A smile upon his memory may be given in a moment of quiet reflection upon his words:

"From somewhere out yonder, Mr. Dixon says 'Hello!' Nobody there ever says goodbye."

Published in The Monterey Herald on July 19, 2009
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