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95-year-old Winnie vivacious to the end

Winnogene "Winnie" McFetridge
Winnogene "Winnie" McFetridge

DIXON – Winnogene “Winnie” McFetridge could not get through a meal without getting up to do something else.

“She was always busy,” said her daughter, Jane McFetridge. “She always had a million irons in the fire. Always on the go. Always active.”

Whether it was teaching dance, shaking a leg herself, playing the piano or campaigning for the Republican party, the 95-year-old Dixon resident, who died Saturday, was a lively spirit.

“Doesn’t anyone who knew Winnie know what kind of person she was?” joked Amy Badger, 51, of Dixon, who knew Winnie all her life. “She was a fiercely independent and vivacious person.”

Through her career, Winnie was a legal secretary for Edward Jones Attorney and the state highway department, and manager for the Dixon branch office of WSDR radio. She also was active with several other clubs and organizations, including First Presbyterian Church in Dixon, Lee County Women’s Republicans, KSB Auxiliary, Dorothy Chapter 371 and Order of the Eastern Star.

She was born in 1917, to Clifford and Orpha Knapp in Ashton. Her father died on a Thanksgiving Day when she was 10 and her family remembers Winnie sharing stories of saying goodbye in the middle of the Great Depression.

“She learned how to drive when she was only 10 after that,” Jane said. “It was really tough on her, but that started her love for cars. She had a convertible and always drove it in the parades.”

Winnie was a graduate of the Coppins Business School. After her husband Bradley Moll died, she married Dr. James McFetridge, who had a son, John, and daughters Jane and Sheila.

Winnie enjoyed people and being social. Not surprising given her active political voice, she knew Ronald Reagan.

She also had a love for music. She taught herself piano and could play songs by ear. When she wasn’t playing, she was dancing. She taught dance lessons for several years.

“She had a relative who was a magician and they had this great big bass drum that she had fitted for her to dance on during the shows,” Badger said. “That was one of the stories she used to share of her dancing.”

Although Winnie was “fiercely independent,” she was caring, too. Whether it be setting aside special Halloween treats for the neighborhood children, or dog treats for their dogs, or giving gifts to friends, she was thoughtful of others.

“She would help out anybody,” said her neighbor across the street, Bev Weber.

Her family and friends recall several of these stories of Winnie’s charitable nature, but Jane remembers most a time when Winnie volunteered at her school as a room mother and helped a less fortunate family.

“There was a kid in the class who always came in just tatters,” Jane said. “Everyone in the classroom knew that they were a poorer family and didn’t do anything about it. She came into the classroom for one day and went immediately to the clothing store to make sure they got new clothes.”

Badger described Winnie, a onetime model, as stylish.

“She always looked doggone good, even at 95. She wasn’t flamboyant, just very well put together. Definitely a lady.”

While Winnie lived many years and fell ill right before her death, Badger said she never lost that lively spirit so many knew her by.

“She was so critical that (Secretary of State) Jesse White sent her a letter every year now to renew her license and she asked if I could drive her to get her driver’s license,” Badger said. “I told her, ‘Winnie, you can’t even get your shoe on right now (from being sick), how are you going to drive?’ And she replied, ‘I don’t have to have a shoe on to drive.’

“That was just Winnie.”

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