In Tribute: Sister: Woman spent life helping others

By Kevin WIlson: Freedom New Mexico

There was one thing Virginia Dickenson was always sure of, and she never let her eight siblings forget it.

“She would say she’s the oldest, the prettiest and the smartest,” said her sister, Pat Henderson. “She’d tell us that all the time.”

Some things she would never say, however, were “I can’t remember,” or “I can’t help.” Friends and family members said Dickenson did plenty of both until she died Dec. 1 at the age of 76.

Dickenson was born as the first of nine siblings (five girls, four boys) Dec. 18, 1930, in Melvin, Texas. As she grew up on the family farm, she learned to milk cows despite paralysis in her right hand and to act as a second mother despite her closeness in age to her siblings.

“She took care of the house while my mother worked,” said June Kinsey, the last sibling and 18 years younger than Dickenson. “She took care of nieces and nephews while my sisters worked. After she married Melvin, she took care of Mrs. Dickenson.”

It was marrying Melvin Dickenson, whom she had met through her sister at a church function, that brought Virginia to Clovis in 1966.

She stayed in the area the rest of her life, donating time to various charities and working at the Eastern New Mexico Food Bank.
Nancy Taylor, the executive director of the food bank, said the agency received memorials for Dickenson, even though she hadn’t worked there since 1991.

“Virginia was a very small in stature, very determined in nature lady that overcame multiple life challenges with a smile,” Taylor said.

“She was determined she was going to make that balance work. It might have taken her a little bit longer, but she was faithful about doing the job to completion.”

Taylor credited Dickenson’s memory as a useful skill in the office, whether it was for work or not. Taylor and Dickenson’s relatives said Dickenson remembered birthdays and anniversaries for all of her brothers and sisters, their spouses, their children, and for families of coworkers as well.

She always had that kind of memory, said sister JoNell Franklin.

“Dad had some cows,” Franklin said. “She’d remember when all of these calves were born. She’d always remember how old they were.”

When she wasn’t taking care of somebody’s birthday, she was possibly taking care of her family. When her husband’s health forced him into a retirement home, Dickenson would visit him and stay throughout the day helping the staff with errands.

“She always tried to be as helpful as she could, even though she had a disability herself,” Kinsey said.

In Tribute is a regular feature. To suggest an honoree, contact CNJ Managing Editor Rick White at 763-6991 or by e-mail:
rwhite@cnjonline.com