Twenty-Year Brass Armadillo Associate Dies: Dixie Kilborn Will Be Remembered Always

Editor’s Note: Dixie was a long-time friend of the Mountain States Collector. We are so sad that she will no longer be with us. Below are a couple of reminiscences from her close friends and co-workers:


By Linda Lancaster
   Dixie was born in 1940 in Imperial, Nebraska. Her parents were itinerant teachers and they moved 16 times in 17 years. She attended Gracelin College and graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She had her first date with Larry Kilborn in 1962 and they went skating on Evergreen Lake. Dixie worked for the Jeffco school system for over 30 years. She started at Fruitdale in Wheat Ridge and moved to Bergen in 1970. The Kilborns bought their house in Evergreen in 1966 and shortly after their children Jodi and Brad were born. (1967 and 1968)
   Dixie’s first collection was marbles and she said that her brother and her Father always beat her playing marbles so she decided to collect them when she left home. Her second collection was Navajo weaving after she had come to a talk I gave about them in the Bergen library as part of the Native American curriculum.    After starting work at the Brass Armadillo in 2000, she collected storyteller dolls (of the Cochiti pueblo), cookbooks, school bells, hotel bells, ink-wells, match safes, German-carved cork screws, toys and whistlers. She worked at the Brass Armadillo for 20 years so she essentially had two careers.
   Larry still lives in their original house in Evergreen — that’s 50 years in the same house. My husband Steve and I thought Dixie probably was sick of moving and did not want to do that again. Larry was an architect for the National Parks Service until his retirement. Dixie was also a life-long member of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Evergreen. I never in my long friendship with Dixie ever knew anyone that did not love her for her down-to-earth manner, her kindness and her intelligence.
From Sondra Jackson
   Thank you for doing this for dear Dixie!! As her principal at Bergen, I would like to say that Dixie was loved by her students and parents. Her own love of reading inspired her students to read. She was a calm, caring, compassionate teacher who excelled in working with special needs students. Dixie was admired and respected by her colleagues as well. She definitely made a difference.
   We were in the same book club. During this time, I was privileged to get to know Dixie on a more personal level. The stories that she told about her upbringing were intriguing. She often talked about her family with pride. She was such a humble, kind person with a sweet smile and welcoming personality.
   It was always a pleasure to go to her house for book club where she assembled a magnificent spread of food. Dixie added a great deal to our discussions and will be sincerely missed!
   When I wrote to the family, I mentioned that she and her teammate Ellen Thompson always dressed up at Halloween as “The Picky Old Ladies.” They were hilarious and had so much fun.
From the General Manager of the Denver Brass Armadillo David Simonsen:
   There are few words that would capture how special Dixie Kilborn was. She’s going to be missed greatly. For me, she was a wonderful resource. She made my start here as general manager so much easier.


From the Archives, Oct. 2007

Dixie and Larry Kilborn, Collectors Extraordinaire

By Peg DeStefano
   It all started with one marble. Of course, it was a fairly unique and one-of-kind marble but it was all that was needed to spark the collecting gene in Dixie and Larry Kilborn. That was in 1998. Now the couple has over 20,000 marbles. The most they ever spent on a marble was $400, which is relatively inexpensive for an antique handmade marble. It is a handmade red mica from the late 1800s. There were blue, white, green, and amber mica marbles but very few reds. They consider this marble a true treasure.
   On a visit to their home in Evergreen, I was amazed at the collection this couple has been building of marbles of the 20’s and 30’s. Dixie, who is a retired educator and her husband Larry, an architect, were most helpful explaining to me what different marbles were. I learned about cat eyes and banana marbles and about how there is the pontil where the marble is cut from a glass cane. They told me about the marbles made by Peltier and that they also sold to other companies so even though the marbles were packaged by different companies, they were still Peltier. They have a real marble from Marble, Colorado among their collection. The Kilborns are not too interested in more common contemporary machine-made marbles. “I’m afraid we’ve become marble snobs,” Dixie laughingly explained.
   The marbles are only one of their many collections. Dixie and Larry also collect storytellers. These are clay figures made by Native Americans including several from the Taos Pueblo. Their most valuable storyteller is a big black Cherokee figure. It dwarfs all of the other storytellers. All of these clay figures have in common that their mouths are always open and they are surrounded by children. To supplement this collection they also have many other Indian-made wood carvings, kachinas and weavings. The weavings are primarily Navajo but from many different clans. One is from Two Grey Hills that uses grey and brown as the predominant colors. Most of the dyes are from natural sources. The Kilborns blame their friend Linda Lancaster, a fellow teaching friend of Dixie’s, for starting them down this path. Their collection of weavings, both old and new, is astounding.
   Since Dixie and her parents were all teachers, it is not surprising that she also has a collection of school bells. The better bells have a lovely tone and the clapper must be original. All of the school bells have the same basic construction. Their most recent purchase came from Leadville, Colorado. Being from Nebraska originally, Dixie remembers the one and two room school houses. When she went to school, she recalls that only the good kids got to ring the bell. She remembers that she was the only child in third grade. Her grandfather homesteaded in Chase County in Western Nebraska. Her father and mother were both teachers and they had to move around a lot because back then rather than give a teacher a raise, the school districts would just hire a new teacher. It was a difficult way to live.
   The Kilborns also have a great toy collection. They have a large amount of ramp walkers from the 40s, 50s and a few that made it to the 60s. Ramp walkers are usually Disney characters, some are military, animals and little people. These cute little figures, when put on an incline, seem to walk. They were given out in cereal boxes and at movies. You could also buy them at a dime store like Ben Franklins, Krescke, Kress, or Woolworths. Dixie also has a lot of windup toys and banks.
   Dixie and Larry say that everyone collects in their family. I asked Dixie to what she might attribute that and she said, “We had to move around a lot and were always giving our toys away. By age 16, we had moved 16 times. Also, we grew up poor and didn’t have much.” Now that she is older, she can buy all the toys she would like. “It’s kind of like having a second childhood,” Dixie explained.
   There were so many poignant stories that Dixie and Larry told as they were showing me their collections. One story was about Dixie’s favorite Teri Lee doll. “I had stopped playing with it and mother decided one of my cousins might enjoy it.” Dixie agreed to give it to her cousin but was sad to see it go. After her mother died, she discovered her mother had kept the doll, all her clothes and the doll house for her. She cried at the discovery.
   Well, just when I thought I had seen everything, Larry pulls out yet another collection. This one was of bar spoons, cap lifters and spatulas, including spinners, all with advertising on them. He has about 150 of these items.
   I’ll tell you, this couple is having fun! Never before have I met such consummate collectors. Dixie and Larry Kilborn are the prime example. I’m sure that they will continue their search to complete each collection. They are never bored and always enthusiastic. They have proven to me that people who collect have very interesting lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *