Our hearts are heavy with the news that “Shorty” Dickson, the patriarch of our Dickson-Murst Farm, passed away last week. Richard “Shorty” Wayne Dickson was 85 years old. Born in 1936 to Simon and Thelma Dickson, Shorty was his nickname all his life, despite his lanky 6’1” frame. Shorty’s childhood was spent on the family farm, what we now fondly call the Dickson-Murst Farm, which has been in the Dickson family more than 150 years. Even in adulthood, he lived on Dickson Road, moving to the other side of the road when his sister Juanita and her husband John took on the farming and moved into the farmhouse.
Shorty in the middle, back at Dickson-Murst Farm
The original farm was purchased in 1864 by Shorty’s great-grandfather Simon Dickson, who emigrated from Scotland to Canada before arriving in Montgomery. Shorty said Simon bought 240 acres along Dickson Road and then went back to Canada for a few years before returning to settle on the land.
Shorty’s grandfather, Robert, farmed there, as well as his father, also named Simon. Shorty’s father married Thelma Wedemaier, a farm girl from up the road, and they lived on the farm, raising their three children: Richard and his two sisters, Lorene and Juanita. Juanita (Shorty’s sister) married John Murst, thus the hyphen Murst, and they farmed the land for 30 years.
Shorty studied Agricultural Science at The University of Illinois and loved the farm life. He would work with his father each summer and on open weekends. He made his career in the insurance business, but his connection to farming remained strong throughout his years. We sat down with Shorty a few years ago and got him on video talking about the sheep he remembers having on the farm – give a listen below!
Shorty was also a foundational figure in nearby Waubonsee Community College, where he served as a trustee for more than 45 years, and was board chair for 29 of those years. He was also a staunch advocate for the conservation and preservation of the land surrounding the college.
Shorty’s wife Marian shared that when the farm was sold for development and it appeared the farmstead might not be saved, Shorty, who had moved across the road from the farm, would sit in his chair looking wistfully across Dickson Road at his childhood home and barns. The thought of those pristine buildings he had clambered around in all of his life being razed was more than he could handle. “When Marilyn Michelini and the Village of Montgomery got involved, and things worked out to have The Conservation Foundation take the farm, Shorty was just elated,” said Marian. “He wanted to take the golf cart down to be at every Day at the Farm, every meeting of the Dickson-Murst Farm Partners. He just loved that the farmstead had been saved and loved to see people enjoying his family farm.”
Shorty and Marian have been very active in the Dickson-Murst Farm Partners, a volunteer group of The Conservation Foundation, and Shorty worked alongside other Partners to take care of the buildings, mow, and keep the place looking pristine.
Check out Shorty’s description of the sheep that used to be at the farm below!
Shorty’s lifelong connection to the Dickson-Murst Farm has immeasurably deepened our connection to the place we now call home, and with the help of our amazing Dickson-Murst Farm Partners, we commit to keeping the farm in a state worthy of its history and Shorty’s love for it. Everyone who visits and makes family memories will be honoring Shorty’s legacy of family and the farm life. We will remember him fondly, and miss the sight of his golf cart heading toward the farm. His loved ones will always be welcomed as family!