The Mason City native known for “The Music Man” wasn’t the only star in his family. Meredith Willson’s sister, Dixie, was a chorus girl in the Zeigfield Follies, an elephant rider for Ringling Brothers Circus, and published nearly 300 works in magazines and books, four of which became movies. The Loomis Archives of the Mason City Public Library is compiling a Dixie Willson collection with the help of her daughter Dana Willson Briggs. Briggs says it’s important these works be saved for generations to come.Among Dixie Willson’s exploits, she was an author, poet, screenwriter, stewardess and even a Betty Crocker taste tester. Briggs says there were two occassions when her mother turned up missing for weeks. One of those instances was to go see reclusive multi-millionaire Howard Hughes. Hughes had sent for her while he lived in Las Vegas and wanted her to write his autobiography.Briggs says her mother developed writer’s block and put off penning the autobiography “Who’s Hughes” for a long time. Unfortunately, the book never came to be as Hughes moved out of the country and she never got back in touch with him.The manuscript for the Hughes book was accidentally thrown out. Briggs lives in New Jersey where Dixie Willson spent most of her later years. Briggs got the chance to go to the theater to see her Uncle Meredith and meet a number of celebrities, but admits she didn’t like all of them.Dixie Willson died in 1974 and is buried alongside her mother and brothers in Mason City. Briggs plans on being in Mason City for a few more days to go through more of her mother’s materials and to re-live childhood memories.
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