Dixie Brush passed away peacefully in Santa Barbara at Maravilla at the age of 93 after a long journey with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dixie was born October 7, 1926, the second of two daughters to Inez (Isom) Streeter and Harry Gifford Streeter in Santa Barbara County along the coast near Gaviota.
A child of the Great Depression the Streeters moved from Lompoc to the small town of Westley in the Great Central Valley to start over after losing their ranch. Dixie grew up with her sister Shirley Streeter in this small farming community and attended Patterson High School graduating in 1941. After graduation she moved to San Jose where she attended Healds Business College.
During WWII while attending a community dance with her BFF Betty Vincent and Betty’s boyfriend, Dixie was spotted across the room by a young sailor Virgil Brush. Thus started a journey that would last more than 65 years. They were married in Monterey, California on July 28, 1946 where they lived briefly after the War.
Dixie and Virgil returned to the Central Valley to be near family and work on the ranch. Daughter Ginny was born in 1947 and Bill in 1951. Virgil ran an Associated gas station in Westley before moving to the Brush Ranch to be a dairyman with his brother Stanley for a time, and then later started farming. In 1957 Dixie and Virgil moved from Patterson to an 80-acre ranch on Brush Lane where they farmed for more than 50 years.
Summers would find the extended Brush family gathering for impromptu picnics nearly every weekend in the River Bottom along the San Joaquin River west of Modesto.
Over the decades Dixie became famous among the Brushes for her Picnic Potato Salad— a constant and family favorite. Requests for Dixie’s potato salad for 30-40 people were part of any family get-together.
In 1963 Dixie attended Valley Commercial College to expand her business skills. In addition to doing bookkeeping for the ranch she worked for Barber Regal Stations before landing a job with the Social Security Administration office in Modesto where she worked until retiring in 1979. Her colleagues at Social Security became fast friends and in retirement they enjoyed many trips together that often included lots of laughter, concerts and gambling at Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas.
Dixie and Virgil travelled extensively during the golden age of travel in the US as well as Europe, New Zealand and Australia. On one of their first trips they met Shirley and David McCrae who would become their best friends with whom they shared many adventures and amusing stories for decades. The extended family fondly referred to them as The Australians.
Dixie was easy-going and up for having fun. She and Virgil loved going to movies, dancing to Big Band music and playing cards–Hearts in particular. They were enthusiastic grandparents providing many a pizza-and-movie night and back-to-school shopping each fall. She is remembered as a beloved grandma injecting fun and amusing Eric and Natalie with interactive Smurf-based adventures and searches for soap opera villains depicted in her hand-drawn wanted posters.
Virgil was big on celebrating milestones—decade birthdays, decades on the ranch and significant anniversaries. In 1996 Virgil and Dixie celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary with family and friends, at a fun-filled event that included a cardboard likeness of John Wayne (Virgil’s favorite movie star) for guests to pose with on a pop-up photo drop. In 2004, Dixie and Virgil attended the California State Fair recognition of the 150 Year Anniversary of Brush Lake Ranch along with other Brush Family. In 2006 a good time was had by all who attended their 60th Anniversary after which they took a trip with The Australians who flew over to celebrate with them.
Dixie became a devoted caregiver in the later years of Virgil’s life as he dealt with macular degeneration. Dixie remained on the ranch after Virgil passed in 2007. As Alzheimer’s developed to the point she could no longer live alone, she moved to Santa Barbara to live with her daughter Ginny. She loved Santa Barbara weather. Her days were filled with good humor, al fresco dining, the companionship of her cat Lucky and others who visited and enjoyed watching TV westerns and movies with her.
In 2015 Dixie moved to Maravilla Assisted living and later the Enliven memory unit where she thrived on the interactive daily activities especially music. She was a lively addition to the residents and staff and lived her last years comfortably and happy, finally succumbing to Alzheimer’s Disease on October 27, 2019.
She is survived by her daughter Ginny Brush; son Bill Brush and daughter-in-law Glenda Brush; Grandchildren Eric Brush and his wife Amy; Natalie Thomason and husband Nolan; great grandchildren Dillon and Laney Brush; Claire and Reed Thomason; and numerous nieces and nephews. Dixie was the last member of our family’s Greatest Generation and this was reflected in her grace, stoicism and kindness. She will be long remembered as a loving wife, caring mother, beloved grandmother and aunt and by most people who met her —as a very sweet lady.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.
A Tribute Gift in Dixie’s name at Act.alz.org/donate.