Even over Zoom, Dixie Lewis PO ’24 exuded generosity, loyalty and love, quickly becoming well-known with classmates and softball teammates for her unconditionally supportive nature.
“Dixie was my first friend at Pomona,” teammate Lauren Ziment PO ’24 said via email. “She was such a caring and radiant person. Even though we never met in person, she always would text and constantly check in to see how I was doing and just to stay updated with each other’s lives, or even just to see how my day was going. She just had this way of always letting you know that she was there for you.”
Teammates said she was the type of person who got along with everyone while unapologetically being herself.
“She meshed with the team immediately, and it was as if we all had known each other for years,” Taylor Lehner PZ ’22 and Hannah Brajkovich PO ’22 said via email.
Dixie died in a car accident on May 25, Dean of Students Avis Hinkson announced in an email to Pomona College students. She was in Truckee, California, with her longtime boyfriend and fellow Berkeley High School graduate Ross Schultz, who also died in the collision.
“Her virtual Pomona classmates helped her navigate the two COVID semesters, and we will be forever grateful to them for forging bonds with our daughter through mere screens.”
— Tabitha Soren
“There is nothing Dixie wanted more in the world than to be on Pomona’s campus and play with her pals on the softball team for coach [JoAnne] Ferguson,” her mother, Tabitha Soren, said in Hinkson’s message. “It was her dream and the culmination of so much training that she kept up with all through lockdown. Her virtual Pomona classmates helped her navigate the two COVID semesters, and we will be forever grateful to them for forging bonds with our daughter through mere screens.”
A celebration of life was held June 6 on the softball diamond at Codornices Park in Berkeley, California.
“This was our first home field,” her father, Michael Lewis, said at the memorial. “This is the closest thing that Dixie had to a church.”
From a young age, Dixie dominated the softball field with her fierce spirit. While other parents tried to protect their children from competition and failure, Michael quickly realized he needed to protect the competition from Dixie.
“She was who you wanted up with the bases loaded, and there’s two out and you’re down by a couple of points,” he said. “She was who you wanted to pitch in the clutch.”
Jason Kaneko immediately noticed 9-year-old Dixie’s drive to win when he began coaching her in the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League.
“If softball was a game of chess, Dixie was the queen. Dixie played every possible position. And sometimes she played positions not because she wanted to but because she had the IQ and competitiveness to do what was best for the team,” he said at the celebration of life. “At times, Dixie was hard on herself, because she strived for perfection. Yet Dixie was so awesome at celebrating her teammates’ successes.”
Cal Nuggets softball coach Haley Woods, who knew Dixie for six years, agreed.
“She was the hardest worker on any field she ever stepped foot on … She was a tremendous teammate, was always willing to do whatever the team needed. And, you know, in today’s culture, I feel like that is so rare,” she told TSL. “She wasn’t always the most talented on every team that she was on, but she was always the best teammate and the hardest worker.”
Dixie pushed her teammates to be their best, coaching them from the dugout — a “mini me,” Woods said. Along with coaching softball for Albany High School this spring, Dixie also coached middle-school-aged players throughout the past year.
“She was so set to be a superstar at Pomona, and she had worked so hard to accomplish that goal,” Woods said. “I mean, her dream, her number one motivating factor every day, all through high school, every reason was to play college softball. And she didn’t get that opportunity. And it absolutely breaks my heart.”
“She was a caring and thoughtful teammate with a heart of gold. Dixie’s dream was to play college softball at Pomona, and we are committed to honoring her legacy and love within our program.”
— JoAnne Ferguson
Although COVID-19 prevented Dixie from playing college softball, she still bonded deeply with the Pomona-Pitzer softball team, according to Ferguson.
“Dixie stood apart from so many recruits not only for her versatility, but because she played with a competitive fire in her eyes — showing her passion for the sport and exuding pure love of the game,” she said in an email. “She was a caring and thoughtful teammate with a heart of gold. Dixie’s dream was to play college softball at Pomona, and we are committed to honoring her legacy and love within our program.”
The team plans to hold a jersey ceremony with Dixie’s family and bring the jersey to every game for the next three years, Ferguson said.
Last Thanksgiving, Michael and Dixie walked around the P-P softball field to imagine what it would be like in session.
“And I decided to ask her in a roundabout way, like, ‘Was it worth it?’ She had given up so much to get to this place,” he said during the celebration of life. “She’d given up an ordinary high school experience. She missed all the parties. She was on the road like a traveling salesman for three years playing softball. She learned something that a lot of people just never learn: how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. She had fought through a lot of difficulties to get to where she was.”
But as he listed her sacrifices, she smiled.
“And I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘You could go on, but look where it got me.’ She was so pleased with what she had accomplished. And she had so much in front of her,” he said.
Above all else, she was incredibly effective with an impatience for ineffectiveness, Michael said. For example, about five years ago, they went on a guided tour of the United Nations in New York City.
“They had all these pictures, and it was UN soldiers in blue helmets going into the concentration camps after World War II. And it was UN soldiers going into Rwanda after the genocide. Or UN soldiers going into Croatia after the war,” he said. “And Dixie raised her hand in the back, and she said, ‘Do you guys ever go in before? Why go in after?’ It kind of killed the spirit of the tour. But it was so her. And she didn’t have the UN problem. She was all in, in everything she did. And what she did she excelled in.”
From grades to friendships, Dixie was known to dedicate herself to every aspect of her life.
“I love how even though you didn’t have enough hours in the day to finish everything on your plate, you would always make time to be with me,” close friend Indigo Carlson said at the celebration of life.
Calling Dixie a “ray of sunshine,” Carlson said Dixie was always there for her. When Carlson was struggling with her mental health, she lived with Dixie in Laguna Beach this fall for two months, according to Berkeleyside.
“I think it’s really beautiful and incredible that she lived her life in a way that constantly set herself up to continue to do amazing things.” – Logan Stouse
“Not a moment passed when we were together when I wished I was in any place in the entire world other than right next to her. She always knew what to say, the best advice to give,” she said. “Whenever I didn’t know what to do or I had a dilemma, I would talk to Dixie, and she would tell me exactly what I needed to do to make it all better. She was always right.”
Cousin Logan Stouse PO ’22 added that she was an old soul and admired how her intense dedication never prevented her from enjoying every moment.
“I think it’s really beautiful and incredible that she lived her life in a way that constantly set herself up to continue to do amazing things, and every next thing she had was going to be amazing,” he said. “I was excited to go to school with her and be a part of her life more. And I’ll miss her very deeply. We all will.”
For Woods, Dixie embodied what humanity should be.
“If we all lived every day and worked the way that Dixie worked and had the passion for life and people in her life [that Dixie had], the world would be a much better place,” she said.
Dixie is survived by her parents and her siblings, Quinn and Walker Lewis.