On the Town: 101-year-old Stanford alum remembers college and careers

Jack Dixon has always played hard and worked even harder. At 101, the Glendale resident’s memory is remarkable, and he still has a great sense of humor. To prove it, the sign on his front door reads “I’m 101, and I’m awesome!”

He really is.

John “Jack” Dixon was born on July 4, 1916, in San Francisco. He came into the world with his twin sister Lucille Coffey, who passed away recently and was a La Cañada resident for many years.

He grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Belmont High School, where he was an honors student and president of the graduating class of summer 1935.

He was a four-year letterman in track and cross country. His hobby since age 7 has been cartooning and, at 15, his junior year of high school, he got a job drawing for the Los Angeles Shopping News, making $30 for each comic strip.

“It was amazing,” he said, especially because it was during the Great Depression. “Most of the people I knew were making $30 a week.”

Dixon studied architecture and geology at Stanford University. It was $115 a quarter, but he was clever at covering the bills. He worked as a waiter for the woman's dormitory. He ran a baggage company, carrying students’ luggage from the train station to their rooms at the beginning of the school year.

He had an advertising company for which he drew cartoons for the merchants in Palo Alto. He also created a calendar that he supported by selling ads.

He spent his last two years at the Stanford Chaparral, which was the campus humor magazine. He was art editor and lead cartoonist during his junior year and was associate editor his senior year.

While at Stanford, he inherited the role as cartoonist of the Indian mascot. He even came up with an Indian doll that sold successfully in the campus bookstore.

His Indian design remained a campus staple until 1972 when 55 Native American students complained that the mascot was an insult to their culture and heritage. The Student Senate voted to drop it, according to a Stanford University website.

After Dixon graduated in 1940, he married his first wife. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Early in his naval career, he was an interpreter of aerial photographs.

He was sent to photo intelligence school at the photo science laboratory in Washington, DC. He and four other officers attending the school had their orders to the Pacific canceled and were sent to air combat intelligence school.

He then returned to the photo intelligence school and was assigned to the model shop that consisted of five teams. They made models of the Pacific Islands that were intended to be bombed.

“They were made of plaster of Paris, and they sprayed them with liquid latex that was pulled off like a bath mat,” he said. “It was very light so a pilot could carry it.”

He served his country again as a Navy reservist during the Korean War.

Dixon has lived in Glendale for 66 years. He worked for 40 years as an architect and engineer for the former Pacific Telephone Co.

When he retired in 1981, his title was engineer manager for building and construction for the territory from Mexico to the North Pole. He supervised construction of communication buildings.

After he retired, he spent 10 years as a member of the Stanford Scouts, for which he recruited athletes to attend Stanford University. Three of them graduated from Glendale High School — Bob Peterson, who played football; Tom Dose, basketball; and Darrell Sutherland, baseball and basketball.

“I have lived long enough to see all these boys complete their careers, and they were all successful, professional men,” he said.

Dixon and his wife Shirley share their Glendale home with the family cat. He has two children, Jack Dixon and Diane Gennuso.

What does he attribute his longevity to? “Kissing the right girls,” he quipped.

“I was a track runner in high school and college,” he said. “I ran the middle distances in cross country. I never smoked and drank very little.”

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.

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