After 46 years of employment with Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Dixie Huffman is retiring. While that is a remarkable achievement by itself, Dixie’s connection to Pleasant Hill began almost literally since the day she was born. A lifelong resident of Mercer County, as a young girl in the 1930s, Dixie lived on land that was once owned by the Shakers, near the West Lot Dwelling. Her first memories of the Pleasant Hill buildings were from well before the restoration; at one time, she recalled, “it didn’t look like there was much life here.”
Dixie’s professional career at Pleasant Hill began in 1971, as an interpreter during her summer breaks from her full-time teaching career. Upon retiring from teaching, in the late 1970s, she became a full-time fixture of the Pleasant Hill interpretive team. As the years progressed, she began to work behind the scenes with the collection, helping the curatorial staff with very important tasks like cataloging, records management and research.
In recent years, “Miss Dixie” has become best known among staff for her extensive transcription of the Shaker primarily sources. Sitting for hours in front of a microfilm machine, she diligently copied the original records onto legal pads that could easily be shared with staff and guests alike. It has often been said that she knows the Shakers personally, despite having never met them. If you’ve ever experienced her stories about Henry Daily, you know exactly what we mean.
There is no way to quantify the number of people she has shared the Shakers with over the years. But one thing is certain: each of these people had a warm, friendly and engaging experience. With her retirement, Shaker Village is losing one its institutions. We will all miss seeing her during her afternoon walks, her stories, her remarkable personality, her friendliness and her sense of humor. She has been a friend to all she encountered. In contrast to what she experienced in the days before the restoration, there is now life in the Village, and for 46 years, Dixie Huffman has been an integral part in making that happen.
For staff, having Dixie around meant great stories told from the journals she’d been transcribing on a given day, sweet conversations around the lunch table and the camaraderie of a great friend. She brought the Shakers to life for many, since she added her own fiery personality when retelling each one. She was well known for spending her breaks with the farm animals (of course, she was their favorite person to see, as she always brought a bag of apples with her). For us, it was more than difficult to choose a worthy gift for someone so special to not only the people here, but the place and the work Shaker Village strives to do. But we had to try.
The Dixie Huffman Scholarship will be rewarded to one junior or senior from Burgin High School or Mercer County Senior High School as a way to offset internship and/or college expenses. This area and education are two things near and dear to Dixie’s heart, so we chose to honor her legacy by paying forward to local school children her loyalty and dedication to this place. We will miss seeing Dixie daily “at the office,” but we know she’ll be visiting with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren often.