Saluting (and missing) a hospice icon
by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager
If we had flags outside the various regional offices of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, they would all be flying at half mast. That’s because last week, we lost a truly outstanding individual. A woman whose passion changed the end-of-life care landscape in the Charlotte region and whose dedication is the reason that we are here at all. Sharon Oliver Dixon passed away on Thursday, June 27 at home, under the care of the very organization she helped create.
Her call to serve came early in life. When Sharon was just 17 years old, she was the caregiver to her mother who experienced a tremendous amount of pain while dying. The dismay and helplessness Sharon felt while helping her mother die fueled her decision to become a nurse. And years later, the memory of her mother’s death spurred her to write the certificate of need for a license for the first hospice organization in Charlotte, NC. She was, without a doubt, the driving force for the incorporation of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region (then Hospice at Charlotte).
Sharon was the first employee hired by the organization in 1979 (nurse coordinator). She rose through the ranks of the organization, holding various positions until becoming the Senior Vice President of Clinical Services in 1996. She served in this capacity until her retirement on January 1, 2007.
I never had the pleasure of meeting the legendary Sharon Dixon. But I have heard countless stories about her and let me tell you, she was one impressive and awesome woman. She was adored, respected, and sometimes even feared (but in a good way!) by those who worked with her. She had no tolerance for whining, but had a wicked sense of humor and rarely lost her cool. She was the type of person who made you want to be better at your job; she wasn’t much on either praise or criticism, but you certainly basked in the compliments when they came your way.
Sharon was a whiz in the kitchen, endlessly collecting cookbooks, and was always up to the challenge of a new recipe. In fact, most years on the Friday after Thanksgiving (when almost everyone was taking vacation), she would come in to work to “hold down the fort” and would create a delectable soup from the previous day’s yummy leftovers. She would share her concoction with the other “troopers” who had come in to work and had left family members at home, relaxing in front of the TV and watching football. Many of the vegetables in the soup were from her very own garden, which she tended with great care and success.
Her greatest legacy, however, was her work. Her passion for end-of-life care was second to none; she was a tireless advocate for the hospice industry as a whole. She gave countless presentations at the local, state, and national level. Her non-stop efforts allowed thousands of individuals in North Carolina to enjoy relief from their symptoms and experience peaceful deaths in their own homes. She was so revered for her clinical excellence and the great strides she made during her career that in 1997, The Carolina’s Center for Hospice and End of Life Care created the Sharon O. Dixon award. She was, naturally, the very first recipient.
So this week (and for weeks to come) we pay homage to a formidable icon. We celebrate her successes; especially the ones that led to the creation and growth of this organization. Yet we mourn too. We mourn the loss of a wonderful human being who dedicated her life to the comfort of others. We are humbled by the legacy that Sharon has left us to continue. And we are thankful that, at the end, we were able to offer her the same compassionate services that she spent her entire life working to uphold and protect.
Godspeed, Sharon Dixon. You will be deeply missed.Explore posts in the same categories: advocacy, awareness, education, end of life, hospice comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.