Public tributes to Dixon begin Sunday afternoon

News-DemocratJuly 11, 2014 

— Large crowds are expected Sunday and Monday for the visitation and funeral for former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon, but it's not yet known whether the mourners will include President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.

The visitation will be held from 3-8 p.m. Sunday and 10-11 a.m. Monday at Lindenwood University-Belleville's auditorium, just steps away from the Student Center named in Dixon's honor.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in the auditorium with private burial with military honors to follow at Lake View Memorial Gardens in Fairview Heights.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said a security and traffic detail has been set aside for the event, although he wouldn't go into specifics about how many officers would be involved.

"We'll be prepared," Eckert said. "It wouldn't surprise me to see 1,000 or 1,500 people walk through."

Dixon's daughter, Stephanie Yearian, is an employee of Lindenwood-Belleville. She said the decision to hold her father's wake on the campus was made partially due to the fact that its auditorium was large enough to handle the anticipated large crowd, and partially because the former senator and his family have a long relationship both with Lindenwood and with its Belleville location dating back to when it was Belleville Township High School.

"My father really loved this place and had a lot of fond memories here, so it seemed appropriate," Yearian said. She said not only did Dixon attend Township High School, his mother did before him and his children after him.

Political dignitaries expected to attend the event include current U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, a Republican. Both of those men are expected to speak about Dixon, who was a Democrat.

Eckert said there has been no advance notice given to the city about whether Obama or Biden would attend. But he said that fact doesn't make it any more or less likely. Eckert said he believes the Secret Service would keep plans under wraps until the last minute for security reasons.

Typically, the president often sends the vice president to attend state funerals. While there is some thought on the part of local leaders that Obama might attend because he also served as a U.S. senator from Illinois, Biden actually served in the Senate at the same time as Dixon.

Attempts to reach the White House about the president or vice president would be in Belleville on Monday were unsuccessful.

Lindenwood University-Belleville is located at 2600 W. Main St. School leaders did not have an estimate of how long the wait may be to pass Dixon's casket. But they said they have ample parking and room for a large crowd.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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