What makes small towns special are the people in them who make things happen. You can count on those people to get people involved, know the right person to ask for help, and are motivated by the good they do for others.
Dixie Tilden has been that person at CURE (Clean Up the River Environment), a grassroots nonprofit with offices on main street in Montevideo. This month, she will be retiring from CURE after 20 years with the organization. Dixie first got involved with CURE when she was renting out office spaces to various small businesses and working with them as staff support. In July 2000, CURE moved into one of Dixie’s office spaces. She was CURE’s landlord and staff support for eight years. In 2008, CURE took ownership of its own building and asked Dixie to keep working with them. So, she did, for 12 more years!
Dixie’s involvement with CURE has changed as the group itself has changed. CURE hosted many large meetings and gatherings that have required months of preparation. According to Dixie, “Some of my favorite memories are the CURE events that allowed me to meet a large variety of people, many of whom have become really good friends over the years. One event in particular was held at Prairie’s Edge Casino in Granite Falls. We hosted a three-day training session with over 100 people each day, and I arranged most of the events. It was a blast, and it went off really well if I do say so myself.” She also shared that CURE maintained a rental fleet of canoes and kayaks for a time, and she was in charge of them. “I learned to kayak and loved doing so!”
Dixie is originally from Sioux Falls, SD. That is where she met Jerry, and they married in 1963, two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. While in Sioux Falls, they had their two children, Bret and Julie. In 1969, they moved to Marshall and finally to Montevideo in 1973. Not long after moving to Montevideo, Jerry obtained his real estate license and went to work for Kuhlmann & Smith, selling houses and commercial properties. Dixie worked part-time as a medical secretary for a semi-retired doctor until he passed away.
In 1980, Jerry and Dixie bought the A&W Drive-In that they operated for three seasons. Of that experience, Dixie says, “Everyone should have the experience of running a business with only teenagers as employees!” After her A&W tenure, Dixie worked as support staff for a variety of businesses. In 1989, Jerry started work as an on-the-road salesman for Orion Food Systems and was gone all week. During this time, Dixie started a business renting out office spaces and working with them as staff support.
As their children married and had kids of their own, Dixie and Jerry were blessed with eight grandchildren. Most of them live relatively close to Montevideo. Their daughter Julie and her husband Keith have three daughters, and their families live in the Dayton, MN area. Their son Bret and his wife Angie live in rural Montevideo, and three of their five children and families live in the area. One granddaughter and her family live in western North Dakota, and a grandson in the Navy is currently living in San Diego. Dixie’s family continues to grow. Her first great-grandchild arrived in 2017, and she currently has five great-granddaughters and one great-grandson. In 2005, Jerry returned to the real estate business, working for Kuhlman & Associates. In 2015, Jerry passed away after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Besides knowing Dixie through her work and family, many people around Montevideo know Dixie from her extensive involvement with community organizations. Dixie has been involved with a long list of social and civically minded groups: Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as a leader when her children were young, the Hospital Auxiliary including serving as president for several years, Chippewa County Cancer Society Service (chairperson for ten years), Chippewa County Red Cross Bloodmobile (chairperson for ten years), Lions Club for almost 20 years including several years as Secretary and many years as Treasurer, Montevideo Community Band in the percussion section for 30+ years, Lac qui Lake Watershed Project for 20+ years as their Treasurer, Montevideo High School Band Carnival for almost ten years as their Treasurer, Montevideo’s Santa Anonymous as a shopper since 1976 and as chairman for 10+ years, Chippewa County Historical Society board for ten years, and bowling in at least one league each week since she was 18 years old.
After a career of working with a variety of business and years of being a central figure at CURE, retirement will be a big change. “I will really miss the people I work with on a daily basis,” said Dixie. She continued, “They tell me I will have to come down for lunch once a week just to stay in touch, and that sounds like a really good idea.”
Dixie’s other retirement plans are reading even more than she does now, which is a lot, and she is also going to quilt more. She said, “I have been collecting lots of fabric to make that happen, and now I have all of these great-grandchildren to make quilts for!” Folks can also catch her gardening as she maintains the plantings started by Jerry. According to Dixie, “My husband was an avid gardener, and I helped him by doing all the weeding! I am still trying to keep up with all the flowers he planted, and although it has been five years since his death, I still have many flowers and plants that he left for me to tend.” Post-COVID Dixie also plans on remaining active with the Community Band and a weekly bowling league.
If you have memories of working with Dixie over the years or during her time at CURE, we are collecting and compiling them. You can submit them online at www.cureriver.org/dixie or send them to the CURE office (CURE, 117 S 1st St, Montevideo, MN 56265)