‘He was part of our family’: Retired grocery worker Billy Dixon dies

  • Billy Dixon of Easthampton bags groceries for customers at Big E's Foodland in Easthampton on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

  • Billy Dixon of Easthampton worked at Big E’s Foodland in Easthampton for 23 years. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Billy Dixon of Easthampton bags groceries for customers at Big E's Foodland in Easthampton on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2021 7:33:14 PM
Modified: 11/30/2021 7:32:42 PM

EASTHAMPTON — An act of kindness to a person with special needs will help keep the memory of a longtime Easthampton man alive, his family says.

Following a period of declining health, William “Billy” J. Dixon died Saturday at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, according to his obituary. He was 60.

Dixon was a familiar face in the area as he spent more than two decades working as a front-end service clerk, bagging groceries and rounding up shopping carts at Big E’s Foodland in Easthampton. His favorite holiday to celebrate at the store was Halloween, as he would dress up every year, most often as a vampire, recalled Judi LeBel, president and owner of Big E’s.

“He always had a smile on his face,” LeBel said. “He was very well loved by his co-workers and our customers. We were sorry when he had to retire after his health started to decline. He was part of our family here.”

The community rallied around Dixon in 2017 to gift him a “trip of a lifetime” on a Disney cruise that started in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and stopped in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands. His former co-worker Jae Couture organized a fundraiser via GoFundMe, and over the course of seven days, roughly 200 donors had raised more than $6,000 for the trip.

Dixon retired from the store in 2019. Before his 23 years at Big E’s, he worked at Best Buy in Hadley as a stock clerk and packager.

A native of the Ruchazie neighborhood of Glasgow, Scotland, Dixon immigrated to the U.S. at 10 years old. When his mother, Christina Yarasavych, first attempted to bring him to the U.S. in 1972 to unite with her new husband, Joseph Yarasavych, the couple faced a pile of paperwork that was centered on Dixon’s Down syndrome, according to an earlier Gazette story. Because of his additional chromosome, the article stated that “he would not be allowed to enter this country.”

After multiple calls to groups for help, the family reached out to U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and explained the circumstances. His mother credited Kennedy with providing tremendous help.

Growing up, Dixon was one of the original members of the first handicapped Boy Scouts of America Troop 308 in Northampton. He was also a Special Olympics athlete, taking home numerous medals in events including swimming.

Calling hours will be Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Boucher-O’Brien Funeral Home, 6 Pleasant St., Easthampton. A Mass will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 33 Adams St., Easthampton, with a burial to follow in the family lot in Brookside Cemetery on Williston Avenue.

Dixon was recalled in his obituary as someone who “stole the hearts of many with his genuine kindness for all.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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