Beloved Former WHS Instructor Dies At His Home

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
The Warsaw community was saddened to hear of the passing of former Warsaw High School instructor Don Dixon on Saturday, September 1.
 Don moved to Warsaw in 1978 where he became a science teacher and coached football, track, softball and girls basketball for 17 years in addition to being a color commentator for WHS Football.  His true passion, however, was coaching the girls High School basketball team.  He always told his students and players “you may not like me but you will respect me” which resulted in very special bonds between Don, his players and his students.   Don will always be remembered as a fierce competitor and took his “Dixon’s Dollies” to the state championship where they came in second, losing by just one point, in the final game of the Missouri 2A championship in 1994.  He has been the only coach in the school’s history to have this accomplishment in girls’ basketball. 
WHS graduate and now Clinton attorney Audara Stadler Lutjen fondly remembered her coach.  “When I entered high school and tried out for the girls’ basketball team. The coach was the legendary Don Dixon. And he wasn’t nice. He wasn’t nice at all. He demanded excellence from his players and wasn’t satisfied unless we were succeeding both on and off the courts.
The first few days of freshman practice he instilled in his players the knowledge that he didn’t care if we liked him. He wasn’t going to lose a minute of sleep if we walked out of that gymnasium every night cursing the ground he walked on. (And during preseason practices we did!). Like him or not, however, there wasn’t a girl who played for him who didn’t respect him and come to love him.
Throughout that first year, Dixon told us over and over that our class would see the state championships before we graduated. Over the next few years that became ingrained in us: we WERE going to play for the ultimate trophy.
Winning became the norm playing for Dixon. 
There were just certain unwritten rules that became a way of life when you played WHS Lady Cats basketball: you were going to win 20 games a season, you dressed nicely walking into away games, the bus rides there were fairly quiet. And if we lost the game that night our bus ride home was beyond silent. Not a word was spoken on those nights as we all replayed the game and dreaded the next night’s practice.
When you played basketball for Dixon and took one of his courses, it was just understood you were going to work harder than you would for any other teacher. I distinctly remember being nervous about having to cut into the fetal pig dissection in his biology class. The classmate next to me received praise and encouragement to make the first cut. I was told, ‘Stadler you are welcome to go run laps until you can handle tearing into that pig!’ I did so (with a little help from a classmate who now has Dr. in front of her name). And when it came time to dissect in college biology, it was one of the easiest courses I ever took thanks to how hard Dixon pushed me in high school.
Coach Dixon had promised my class he would see us to the end. We knew we were his last team and that he was retiring from coaching basketball after the State Championship games. That, combined with the knowledge we had two games waiting for us to play at the Hearnes Center took us—an unranked, unknown team—to the Final Four.
In the locker room at the Hearnes Center after that devastating loss, we were all in tears. When Coach Dixon entered the locker room it became worse. There wasn’t anything anyone of us would have not done for that man, but we had fallen short of the championship by one point at the buzzer. The coach that never accepted—or let us accept—defeat was in tears alongside us. But not because of the loss. He told us we had given him the most amazing gift that season and that we had nothing to feel down about. He reminded us that we had went from an unranked team to a team that made all the other ranked 2A teams sit up and take notice. He taught us a life lesson about sportsmanship, pride and dignity that night in that Mizzou locker room.
Coach Dixon, your reward for a life well lived to the fullest, mentoring young women for decades, being a wonderful teacher and mentor to many isn’t waiting for you at Hearnes Center. It’s waiting for you in heaven. Godspeed Coach!”
  Another WHS basketball standout Leanne Thixton Donaldson also had fond memories of Mr. Dixon, “Warsaw Girls’ High School Basketball provided some of the most memorable experiences in my high school career. And I scored in the top 5 of 500 in my college biology class because of this coach who was also my high school biology teacher. I have many memories with Coach Dixon, one of which was visiting in his living room about something other than basketball or carp.  Sad that the Legend is gone. Thankful I got to be a part of the journey. ‘Run to victory!’”
Warsaw physician Dr. Amber Campbell said that Mr. Dixon helped prepare her for the rigors of medical school.  “I didn’t realize that not every high school science teacher required his students to memorize the name of every bone in the body,” said Campbell.  “I am thankful for Mr. Dixon’s guidance.” 
   Dr. Wendy Bybee Austin echoed Dr. Campbell’s sentiments.  “I am so fortunate to have had Mr. Dixon in my life. He pushed me athletically and academically. I will be forever grateful.”
Family and friends who were touched by the life of Donald Dixon are invited to the Methodist Church in Warsaw, Missouri for a visitation on Wednesday, September 5 from 3:30pm - 5:00 pm followed by a memorial service at 5:00 pm, officiated by Rev. Barry Edwards with a eulogy given by Dr. John Boise. 
A complete obituary can be found in this week’s edition of the Enterprise.