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Sylvia Woods-Dixon was talented athlete, world traveler

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 | 4:05 p.m. CDT; updated 8:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 24, 2012

COLUMBIA — For her entire life, Sylvia Woods-Dixon was known as "Gypsy Queen" in Columbia's African-American community. When she was a baby, everyone said she looked as pretty as a gypsy queen. The name stuck.

"As soon as she was old enough to wear jewelry, she was always acquiring it," her brother Michael Dixon said. "She wouldn't leave the house without a ring on each finger and bracelets on her wrists. She was called 'Gypsy Queen' early on and really adopted that style."

Sylvia Louise Woods-Dixon died Friday, June 15, 2012, at the Kansas City Hospice House. She was 74.

Ms. Woods-Dixon was born Aug. 22, 1937, to Madge K. Woods and Sylvester Brooks and was the adopted daughter of George B. Dixon.

When she was a teenager in Columbia, Ms. Woods-Dixon was known for her athletic abilities.

"We would have pickup softball games in Douglass Park during the summer, and she was always chosen first because she was better than the boys," Michael Dixon said. 

Ms. Woods-Dixon attended Douglass High School, where she was a cheerleader. When she attended Douglass in the 1950s, there weren't any girls sports teams, so Ms. Woods-Dixon demonstrated her athletic abilities during the summer months.  Children from different neighborhoods in Columbia would have sports tournaments at Douglass Park.

"She could out-shoot any of the boys in basketball, which was actually pretty embarrassing," Michael Dixon said.

Ms. Woods-Dixon graduated from Douglass in 1954 and went on to receive her licensed practical nurse degree from MU. Eventually she moved to Los Angeles, where she earned her bachelor's degree in nursing in 1981 from California State University. She worked at the Los Angeles County hospital for 31 years before retiring. 

After retiring, Ms. Woods-Dixon took an interest in traveling and visited her brother Michael Dixon in Honduras with her sisters Darlene Dixon and Juanita Kirmse. 

She also took a trip with sister Karettia Dixon to London and Paris and made trips to visit Michael Dixon in Guyana and Panama.

As a Catholic, Ms. Woods-Dixon wanted to make a trip to Italy to visit Rome and the Vatican City. However, she never made the trip.

"Italy was always her 'next trip,' but I guess she always had a stronger yearning to visit her brothers in other countries," Michael Dixon said.

"She lived life to the fullest up until the very end," he said.

Ms. Woods-Dixon is survived by three brothers, Michael Dixon of Springfield, John Dixon of Columbia and Rodney Dixon of Kansas City; and four sisters, Juanita Kirmse and Karen Franklin of Kansas City, Karettia Dixon of Lafayette, Ind., and Darlene Dixon of Columbia. 

Visitation will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon Thursday at Memorial Park Cemetery Chapel, 1217 Business Loop 70 W.

Services will immediately follow at Memorial Park Cemetery.   

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.


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