Because of Jerry Dixon, Citrus County is a better place.

As a Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detective, he was committed to solving the major crime cases, working methodically and tirelessly on each one as if it was the only one.

“He truly was a wonderful representation of the sheriff’s office,” said former sheriff Jeff Dawsy. “I can’t say this about everybody I worked with, but Jerry made our community, made Citrus County, safer every day he came to work.

“He made a difference,” Dawsy said. “He was never a person for the limelight. There were many big cases he took leadership roles on and helped solve the cases, but he never wanted the credit. He was just a hardworking guy that went to work every day, and when he went home, the community was better for it — and he was taken away too soon.”

Gerald Leslie Dixon III died Jan. 30. He was 56.

His name was Gerald, but he went by Jerry, with a J.

“Jerry Dixon was a truly great guy,” said Gary Atchison. “We worked major crimes together as partners, and worked homicides together. … He was a great American, a great cop, a great friend. You hear people say things like that after a person dies, and it may be true or might not be true. But I can sincerely say Jerry Dixon was a great guy.”

Atchison said when Major Crimes needed a detective supervisor, he went to Dixon’s house to convince him to take the job.

“I was working homicides and major robberies at the time and I needed a supervisor I could work with,” he said. “A good police supervisor will let their detectives or their deputies do their job, and Jerry was that guy.

“In the morning I’d report in and tell him if I had a problem with a case, and he’d say, ‘You’re a detective — go detect.’ He wouldn’t criticize or tell me how to do it,” Atchison added. “He had enough trust in me to know I knew what I was doing.”

Jerry Dixon grew up in Southern California and came to Citrus County in 1982.

“He worked at the old county jail in Inverness — we met in jail,” said Linda Dixon, his wife of almost 25 years. “Jerry was a corrections officer and I was a nurse at the jail. By that time, they had built the new jail (in Lecanto).”

Jerry retired five years ago after 26 years with the sheriff’s office.

The couple met in 1992 and started dating the following year — right when the “no name” storm hit.

“I lived in Ozello and he basically saved me from the storm,” she said. “We had just started dating and he helped me move from Ozello to Inverness.”

Linda had three children and Jerry had one, and on March 13, 1995, they took the kids out of school for the day, went to the courthouse to get married and then they all went to Chili’s.

“He was the sweetest guy, quiet and easy going,” she said. “He never raised his voice — and he loved his job.”

Steve Smolinski, also retired from the sheriff’s office, said he and Jerry were close friends as well as colleagues.

“We rode motorcycles together, went camping and boating,” he said. “He had a Toyota Landcruiser and we’d go ‘rock crawling’ in it. … He was just a great guy, very personable. You could always talk to him. He was quiet — he’d sit and listen to you and help you work things out in your head.”

Retired CCSO Capt. Charlie Simmons, who was west side district commander when Jerry was west side operational sergeant, called Jerry Dixon “one of the finest detectives around.”

“He put a lot of demands on himself to cross his T’s and dot his I’s,” Simmons said. “He was quiet, but he was one of the funniest guys you’d ever want to meet. He had a dry sense of humor, but he’d have that grin on his face.

“Before he passed away, he gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever had,” he said. “I was at his house and he tapped me on the hand — ‘Hey, Cap. I want you to know that the two years I worked for you were the best years of my entire career.’”

Jerry Dixon was a “car guy” who could identify a car from a distance and was usually correct.

He loved Mexican food and spent many lunch hours at El Ranchito with his fellow detectives, eating tacos and talking.

He loved DIY home remodeling, boating, riding his Harley, driving his enormous Ram 3500 Dually truck, watching HGTV — and NASCAR.

He volunteered his time doing investigations for the Wildwood Police Department — and survived a brain aneurysm in 1996.

“He was my best friend,” said Luther Willis, who also worked with Jerry as a CCSO detective. “He was one of the most ethical people I ever knew — he never took shortcuts, and his investigations were always thorough. He knew the talents and resources of the people he worked with and knew who he could call on to do the job that needed to be done — he was a true leader.”

Willis said one of the most memorable moments with Jerry Dixon was shortly before he died.

“I had the honor of baptizing him,” Willis said. “He asked me to baptize him ... and his family was all there to see it.

“We all loved him,” he said. “We loved working with him, loved working around him, loved being with him, loved spending time with him. And we all miss him.”

A celebration of life will be Friday, March 13, at the Cattlemen's Association Building in Inverness. Time is not yet determined. Contact Brown Funeral Home and Crematory in Lecanto at 352-795-0111.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

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