Sunday, March 15, 2009

Requiem For A Garbageman

Excerpts from From the New York Times article- 

Stephen Dixon became a New York City garbage man at an age when many such workers begin thinking about leaving the job. He was 41, a decade and a half older than most of the department’s newest hires, whose youth eased the strain of lifting tons of trash each day.  Still, over two decades Mr. Dixon was a hard worker who kept up with, and even surpassed, men half his age. At the end, though, he walked with a limp and spoke of getting his knees fixed after he retired later this year, once he passed his 20th anniversary with the Sanitation Department and qualified for a full pension.  “That’s all he did was work,” said his wife, Dianne Dixon. “He did what the job required.”

On Thursday morning, Mr. Dixon collapsed as he walked alongside the garbage truck on his Queens route. He was taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in the Rockaways, but could not be revived. Doctors said he had apparently suffered a heart attack.

Mr. Dixon was not the Sanitation Department’s biggest worker, or its strongest. Still, he developed a reputation at Garage 14 in the Rockaways, for a pleasant manner and for working a little faster than others.  “He treated people with a lot of respect, and worked hard, and loved his family,” said Kathy Dawkins, a department spokesperson.

Mr. Dixon was born in Panama and moved to New York with a brother and an uncle when he was 9, his wife said. He studied auto mechanics at Woodrow Wilson High School, and spent three years in Germany with the Army. He worked as a mechanic for most of two decades — “He loved cars,” his wife said — but they had four small daughters and needed a more secure income.  “He just wanted security,” Ms. Dixon said. “Whenever he did someone’s car, they’d say they’d pay him and they didn’t always pay.”  So Mr. Dixon joined the Sanitation Department in October 1989. He started in Manhattan, and was eventually transferred to Garage 14, closer to his home in Springfield Gardens, Queens.  Over the years he gained enough seniority to work the most sought-after shift — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and had reached an annual salary of $58,000.

On an average day, a two-person garbage truck team in New York hauls 8 to 13 tons of trash, sometimes more, said Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, the workers’ union.  Though the trucks used by some other cities have hydraulic lifts, New York City trucks are manually filled because it is faster in the city’s narrow streets.  This year would have been the Dixons’ 40th anniversary, and they lived for 37 of those years in a small two-story home near Kennedy Airport. They paid off the mortgage in December and planned to move to Florida, Ms. Dixon said, where the weather would be better on his aching joints.

On Friday, purple and black bunting hung outside Garage 14, and the Sanitation Department’s chaplain, the Rev. Peter Colapietro of Holy Cross Church on West 42nd Street in Manhattan, stopped by at 7 a.m. to say a prayer with the workers.

Article by CARA BUCKLEY and ANN FARMER  for the full article, visit


The Undertaker said...

Every unique living soul needs a good send off. Did they use the truck for the funeral procession?

Patrick McNally said...

I didn't see anything about using a truck for the procession, but that crossed my mind too. The family did get a nice letter from the mayor.

Anonymous said...

from one garbageman to another R.i.P brotha

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Contact Me

My photo
Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.


Blog Archive