Dixie Lee Jones, aged 78, passed away peacefully on Nov. 23, 2012 in Goodyear, her husband Lee, and sons Austin, Emmett, Sheldon and Kevin were by her side.
Mrs. Jones was born Oct. 3, 1934 in Claypool, Ariz. to the late Walter and Laverne Raburn Sanders. Prior to 1900, Dixie’s paternal family moved to the Arizona Territory, making Dixie and her four siblings, John Sanders, Las Vegas, Nev., Walter Sanders, South Carolina, Erma Sanders Lewis, Apache Junction, Ariz. and Jimmy Sanders (deceased 2011), Gisela, Ariz., the fifth generation of her Sanders family to live in Gila County, Ariz. Her great-grandfather Perry Sanders and grandfather James Sanders and his brothers, worked in support industries for construction of Roosevelt Dam in the early 1900s, providing timber from the Sierra Anchas Mountains near Globe and later freighting supplies over the Apache Trail in wagons from Globe to the dam.
During the Great Depression, her father, Walter, worked in the Globe area mines, and later working in the construction industry, building the road and state highway infrastructure across Arizona. By 1962 Walter had worked on most of the roads in the state, from Yuma to Sanders.
Following a number of moves, evidenced by Dixie having attended 28 grade schools in eight years and eight high schools in three years, the family settled in Payson in 1950 as Walter was working on the construction of the Beeline Highway. Dixie worked at the Malt Shop on Payson’s Main Street where she caught the eye of the love of her life, Lee Austin Jones, the son of other Arizona pioneer families, Claude Austin “Bud” Jones and Myrth Pyle.
Lee and Dixie were married June 14, 1952, in the Elks Hall in Payson, and lived and worked on the ranch with Bud. On March 18, 1953, Dixie gave birth to their first son, Austin, in Phoenix, as there was no doctor in Payson at the time. Lee and Dixie’s second son, Emmett, was born May 19, 1955, also in Phoenix.
Later that year Lee and Dixie moved the family to Kingston Ranch, near Austin, Nev., where they were partners in the ranch with Lee’s cousin, Elvin Beard. They sold the ranch and moved back to Payson in 1958, and Lee worked with Raymond Cline in installing the first domestic water lines in Payson. Lee and Dixie’s third son, Sheldon was born in Payson on Oct. 28, 1959.
In April 1960, Lee and Dixie bought a farm and moved to Montrose, Colo., and lived there until February 1968. Kevin, their youngest son, was born in Montrose on June 9, 1961.
Lee and Dixie bought the S/ Ranch from Bud Jones in January of 1968, the year of the Big Snow, which delayed their move to Payson until February. From 1968 until the final sale of the ranch in 1997, Dixie worked alongside Lee and their boys in working and managing the ranch, wintering on the American Gulch allotment west of Payson and summering on the Buck Springs Allotment on the Mogollon Rim. In 1973 Lee and Dixie, in partnership with Lee’s brother Stuart, augmented their operation by purchasing 400 acres of desert farmland near Aqua Caliente, Ariz. The property was developed for forage, cattle and grand kid production, including a log cabin, and sold in 2006 when Lee and Dixie decided it was time to retire.
Dixie would be up well before dawn to prepare breakfast for the family, roundup crew, friends and family that may be visiting, and would spend the balance of her day in the saddle working cattle, or on the ground branding calves, on the fence line, re-seeding the ridges and draws of the summer permit behind the logging crews, or whatever work was required to maintain the ranch, the cattle and the family. Even with the day’s work at hand, Dixie saw that Lee and the boys (and crews and guests) always had a good lunch and dinner sufficient to feed an army.
Dixie was very active in her community and the Arizona cattle industry. She was president of the Arizona State Cowbelles in 1988 and held office in the organization for five years. She was president of the Tonto Cowbelles several times before it was disbanded in 1999. Dixie devoted a great deal of her time to the National Beef Cook-off, sponsored by the National Beef Council, promoting beef as a producer and rancher’s wife. These pursuits allowed Dixie to travel to a number of states to judge beef cook-offs, and on three occasions she worked with the famous Julia Child.
Dixie assisted in the establishment of the Northern Gila County Historical Society Museum and was a member of the Payson Women’s Club. For many years Dixie sat on election boards in Payson and served on the Payson Pioneer Cemetery Board. Dixie was a member of the Daughters of the Gila County Pioneers, served on that board, and was recognized as their “Woman of the Year” in 2009.
While her boys were in school, Dixie was very active in the Payson High School Booster Club. Dixie would be found at nearly every football game, wrestling match, baseball game or track meet that the boys participated in across the state — many times driving cheerleaders, students or parents who otherwise would not have been able to attend. Dixie was an avid Longhorn Booster. Later when Dixie’s grandkids were active in FFA, she helped with barbecues and other fund-raising projects to support the Payson chapter. For some 30 years, Dixie assisted with the Northern Gila County Fair in Pine.
In retirement Lee and Dixie spent their winters in the desert near Aqua Caliente, and their summers in Payson and most recently Tonto Basin.
Dixie is survived by her husband of 60 years, Lee Austin Jones; her sons, Austin (Julie) of Payson, Emmett (Tiffany) of Gilbert, Sheldon (Corrina) of Naperville, Ill., and Kevin of Coolidge; 10 grandchildren, Rebecca, Bonnie, Robert, Janel, Jolene, Stephanie, Kaleena, Lauren, Sheldon Jr. (Jake) and Amanda; three stepgrandsons, Steven Newbury, Christopher Newbury and Zachary Newbury; and eight great-grandchildren, Geoffrey, Emmalee, Natalee, Derek, Jordan, Cody, Desirae and Jaxson, and preceded in death by Landon in 2010. Also surviving are many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends and neighbors.
Memorial contributions be made in Dixie’s name to the American Cancer Society at cancer.org or 1-800-227-2345, and/or the American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org, 1-800-DIABETES.
A funeral service will be held for Dixie at 10 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 1 at Messinger Payson Funeral Home, 901 S. Westerly Rd., with burial following at Payson Pioneer Cemetery. A reception will be held afterward at Messinger’s Community Room.