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WWII veteran celebrates 108th birthday

Stacy M. Brown | 9/11/2015, 8:35 a.m.
Alyce Dixon has been called one of the spunkiest centenarians in the District of Columbia. She has also been called ...
WWII Veteran Alyce Dixon celebrates her 108th birthday on Friday, September 11, 2015 at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Community Living Center where she resides. Dixon is one of the nation's oldest living Veterans. (Courtesy Photo)

Alyce Dixon has been called one of the spunkiest centenarians in the District of Columbia. She has also been called feisty, funny and simply amazing.

At 108-years-old, Dixon certainly has every right to define herself.

“I tell it like it is,” she said. “I speak my mind.”

Born in Boston on September 11, 1907, when Theodore Roosevelt was president, Dixon has seen 18 more presidents elected including the first African-American, Barack Obama.

Though her complexion may confuse some, officials at the VA Medical Center said she often reminds everyone that she’s black and she’s proud.

Dixon was one of nine children and she says the key to longevity can be found in two words— giving and sharing.

“If you have something that other people need, you have to share,” Dixon said. “When I was young I didn’t even have good shoes but I wasn’t worried about it. I lived in a Jewish neighborhood and the girls were very giving there, they let me use their skates and ride their bikes. I just believe in sharing and giving. If you have a little bit of something and someone else needs it, share.”

Dixon, the oldest resident at the VA Medical Center, has been there for approximately 15 years. She has made quite an impression on the residents and staff.

“I tell everyone to dress nice for yourself and you’ll feel better about yourself, even if you don’t feel good,” she said. “Wear your jewelry, fix your hair. No one has to tell you that you look good ... do it for yourself.”

At the age of 16, when watching the actress Alyce Mills, Dixon changed the spelling of her name from Alice to Alyce.

Her family moved to Washington in 1924 and she later attended Howard University. Dixon then got married but says she didn’t want children because she felt as though she had already raised a family as one of the oldest of nine children. Later, she divorced her husband because of an $18 grocery allowance.

“I used to manage his paycheck until he found out I was sending money home to my family,” she said. After he started managing the money and providing her an allowance, Dixon says it didn’t sit well with her because she was just too independent for that situation.

“I found myself a job, an apartment and a roommate. I didn’t need him or his money,” she said.

Dixon moved back to Washington, and by 1940, she was working her first tour as a civilian at the Pentagon.

“I was there before the building was completed. I worked as a buying specialist and I purchased things. I purchased everything from pencils to airplanes,” she said.

Dixon then joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and then the Army. After completing basic training in Massachusetts, Dixon worked in Iowa doing administrative work.

Her first camp was Fort Clark, Texas and then she was assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only unit of African-American women in the Corps to serve overseas during World War II.

“None of the mail had been distributed during three battles when we arrived in Birmingham, England and there were letters stacked to the ceiling of the building and much of the mail had been there for as long as two years waiting to be sent to soldiers in the field,” Dixon said. “We had to sort through 92 billion pieces of mail, including packages. The general told us it would take six months to completely sort all that mail and we had it sorted and delivered in three months. We worked three shifts a day, seven days a week.”

After three years in the Army, Dixon went back to work at the Pentagon.

Last year, she had a private meeting in the Oval Office with Obama and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“She has the unique ability to bring joy to others, and is known especially for her bubbly personality and comedic storytelling,” Norton said in a 2011 House floor speech commemorating Dixon’s birthday.