It's Time to Show UpMay 18, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story and photo by Debra Dingman
Oakley Dexter is turning 100 and Gerald Gordon of The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) arranged a community service project to honor the WWII Army Corps veteran.
DIXON, CA (MPG) - World War II veteran Oakley Dexter is getting a very unusual 100th birthday party. A host of volunteers from the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 84, Living Hope Church, and the local community are going to clean up his yard at 615 Creekside Circle in Dixon this coming Saturday, May 20.
Dexter is certainly not the first older American needing help with yards since most of their resources go to taking care of the person who lives inside. It started with the City of Dixon issuing a citation for an unkept yard with an unregistered vehicle, reported Gerald Gordon of DAV Chapter 84 where Dexter has been a lifelong member.
“He’s one of our oldest members of Larkspur and is probably the oldest World War II Veteran in Dixon,” said Gordon, who was tasked with going through a list of 1,100 veterans in the area to determine if they were still alive. When he came across Dexter’s birth date showing he’d be 100 next month, he knew he had to personally check. So he came and met Dexter in person. That meant finding the home first.
When one comes across the corner-lot house, it is easy to see the need for help as the house is hidden completely behind overgrown trees and shrubs in the middle of a neat neighborhood tucked behind Anderson Elementary School.
“We’re here to help veterans. We’ll cut down a lot of vegetation and we’ll get rid of his old car for him,” Gordon said. He arranges veteran support activity and encourages anyone who can come out and help to do so. Volunteers will start at 8 a.m. unloading equipment. Then, at 8:30 they will set up folding chairs, tables, canopies, and a refreshment stand. Work will start at 9 a.m. and one can spot the house because it will have a huge dumpster in front of it.
Dexter’s daughter, Dixonite Holly Bleasdale, is a single parent who is delighted with the plans. Bleasdale works full time at a Sacramento hospital and does side jobs to supplement her three children in college and helps her dad. Although Dexter is amazingly able to fix his own meals and gets around in his house with the aid of a walker, he is getting more frail. Bleasdale and her sister from Folsom take turns caring for him.
“He has things that help him stay relevant like reading, watching the news and playing cyber solitaire daily. He goes to the men’s group at the church and is well connected,” Bleasdale said. “I think it’s all of that that keeps him good,” she said. She takes him shopping, to appointments, and comes over every week to do laundry and visit.
Oakley was born in San Francisco in 1923 and joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 where he was trained in radio and radar operations and repair. Later he became an instructor, a volunteer firefighter for 60 years, a radio and television repair shop owner with 16 employees and six trucks, and swears the learning came easy because he “watched.”
“Radios have been a hobby of mine since I was 7 years old,” he said. He attributes an educated father who was a hardworking man to his love of learning. He even went back to school when he was 40 and earned an Associate’s Degree and is just a few courses short of a Bachelor’s now.
“But, I’m not going back to earn it now,” he said with a laugh.
“I think he’s happy with his life and I’m glad we didn’t move him. It’s his space,” his daughter said. When asked about his longevity, she wondered if it was the BeefEater Gin since he’s had a glass of that daily for 80 years. “His world has gotten smaller, but he’s adapted to it. He’s adapted to the world. My Dad is not stubborn. He uses a walker all the time in the house and uses a cane outside.” The two have a “call-in, check-in” system in the morning and in the evening. If she doesn’t hear from him, she drives across town and checks.