98-Year-Old Upper West Sider Inducted Into Veterans Hall of Fame

Senator Hoylman-Sigal Dixon

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D/WF-Manhattan) has nominated 98-year-old World War II veteran and West 71st Street Block Association member, Theodore Dixon, into the 2024 New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame, which recognizes outstanding veterans who have distinguished military and civilian lives.

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The New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame was created to honor and recognize outstanding New York veterans who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life. According to the State Senate, “their meritorious service to our nation deserves the special recognition that only a Hall of Fame can provide, as a fitting expression of our gratitude and admiration.” Annually, Senators name a veteran from their district to a place in the Veterans Hall of Fame.

The Veterans Hall of Fame Award was presented at the West 71st Street Block Association’s Summer Celebration on Saturday, June 22. Dixon’s page can be viewed here.

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Mr. Dixon served in a segregated unit in the Navy, seeing combat on the Mariana Islands. After his service he returned to Manhattan, where he was born. Though initially known simply as “Theo,” his neighbors have since anointed him the “Mayor of the Upper West Side” for his constant presence in the community, greeting passersby from his established bench on Columbus Avenue, learning about their lives, offering advice, and “keeping love alive.”

“Theodore Dixon represents the absolute best of the Upper West Side,” said Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal. “I was honored to induct him into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. Mr. Dixon served in the Navy during the Second World War, fighting for freedom, despite the fact that the very army that he served in was racially segregated at the time. Following his service in the Navy, Mr. Dixon became a staple in our community. He served in an official capacity as a member of the West 71st Street Block Association and the 20th Precinct Community Council, as well as in an informal role watching over the neighborhood which earned him the title ‘Mayor of the Upper West Side.’ Mr. Dixon exemplifies what it means to serve your country and your community. I thank him for his service and for, in his words, ‘keeping love alive,’ on the Upper West Side.”

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Born in Manhattan in 1926, Mr. Dixon spent his childhood in Williamsburg, Virginia. At the age of 18, he was drafted to fight in World War II. Having rarely left the leafy confines of Williamsburg, Theo was excited to finally see “what was going on.” Despite his excellent education, Mr. Dixon found himself in a segregated, racist military, with few opportunities for Black men like himself. While many Black soldiers were driven to be cooks, Mr. Dixon’s knowledge and intellect landed him in the Navy and immersed him in combat for the Mariana Islands. The brutality of the fighting inculcated Mr. Dixon with a deep humanism and lasting drive for peaceful reconciliation. In his words-–”all that killing just isn’t natural.”

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Settling in Sugar Hill, Manhattan after the war, Mr. Dixon found his aspirations once again stifled by a pervasive prejudice. Unable to pursue law, he used his knowledge to sell whatever goods he could get his hands on. As an older man on the Upper West Side, Mr. Dixon threw himself into community life on the West 71st St. Block Association. He frequented meetings at the 20th Precinct and built relationships with local politicians. In this role, Mr. Dixon sees himself as a protector. By keeping watch over his community and organizing his neighbors, he keeps the Upper West Side safe for children and families. Of all his accomplishments, Mr. Dixon is most proud of these efforts.

While Mr. Dixon is quick to condemn the bitter racism and brutality he encountered, both at war and in New York, he also professes a hope for the country he served. Carrying around a pocket constitution, he frequently proclaims its opening words—”we the people!” In these moments, he pauses, before emphasizing the final words—”in order to form a more perfect union.”


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