Every Tuesday night before his death, Howard Dixon would join his ever-growing trivia team at Crystal VFW Post 494, commission his signature Johnnie Walker Black, and strategize for the night’s competition.
Friends and family say Dixon, a retired accountant-turned-realtor in Minneapolis, has become a fan of those nights. His knowledge of presidential history and 60s television has helped his “Jersey Kids” trivia team consistently achieve high scores in competitions.
But those close to him believe Dixon was actually a fanatic about people – a source of openness and curiosity in which he invested for much of his life.
“Almost everyone he met became friends,” said Melissa Croft, one of Dixon’s close friends. “He was always down if you wanted to get together, get out of the house or talk about something; he was always available.”
Dixon died September 1 at age 75 from complications of a brain tumor. People who were close to him feel that Dixon’s impact will go far beyond his years in influencing others.
Dixon, a native of Millville, NJ, moved to Minnesota after serving in the military, but has remained close to family and friends in his home state. Howard’s son, Thomas Dixon, said they often visited his home state, making memories.
“My dad and I used to go get subs and cheesesteaks and pizzas and stuff. It was just a lot of fun,” Thomas Dixon said. “In my opinion, he’s one of the greatest guys to ever walk the planet.”
Howard’s other son, Jonathan Dixon, has fond memories of his father working to support his family and playing piano tunes such as “I Could Have Danced All Night” from the musical “My Fair lady”.
The piano and musical theater were among Howard’s lifelong passions, but Jonathan said it was his character who became a role model for those around him.
“Connecting with people was so important to him. No matter how many people he knew, he always had time for everyone,” said Jonathan Dixon. “It seemed like he figured things out relatively early.”
Howard’s life took a turn for the better when he logged onto an AOL chat room in the late 1990s. That’s how he met Jerry Foss, his life partner who, according to those close to him , had a huge impact on everyone around him.
Foss pushed Howard to become more social and left a void in Dixon’s life when he died of brain cancer in 2017. Howard was devastated, but he began to pour energy into a new career at Edina Realty, travel and leisure. It was around this time that Howard became close with his niece Ruthie Dixon, also from New Jersey, and the two bonded over trivial parties.
“He couldn’t stay in the house anymore, it was too sad for him,” Ruthie Dixon said. “It was just the two of us [at trivia] the first week. … We came in third place the first time around, and it was pretty exhilarating. “
They won a $10 gift certificate and quickly became regulars as Jersey Kids. Their group quickly grew to more than a dozen members, but Ruthie says the people were what drew her and Howard each week.
“He liked the conversation,” she said. “He really enjoyed getting to know people and connecting with them.”
Howard cultivated this openness to people during his time with Jerry, and Ruthie thinks others can learn to do the same. Family and friends gathered on September 6 for their first trivial evening without Howard, acknowledging him with a moment of silence.
Jersey Kids took first place.
Dixon is survived by his family and countless friends. Services took place.