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updated: 3/16/2011 2:17 PM

Former Kane County judge loses battle with cancer

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  • Retired Kane County Judge Patrick Dixon died Wednesday at his Geneva home.

    Retired Kane County Judge Patrick Dixon died Wednesday at his Geneva home.

By Dave Heun

For nearly 25 years, Patrick Dixon earned and nurtured a reputation as one of the wisest and fairest judges in the 16th Judicial Circuit Court system.

From his time as an associate judge in 1979, to his rise as the Chief Judge in Kane County from 1988 to 1990, to his retirement in 2002, Dixon was considered an expert and ongoing student of law.

In short, those involved in a case heard by Dixon could be assured it would result in a well-reasoned opinion and fair ruling.

Dixon, 69, died Wednesday morning at his Geneva home after battling a rare form of appendix cancer for the past four years.

Dixon spent most of his career in civil court, hearing an assortment of cases from family squabbles to school district or election issues.

Close friend and retired Judge Grant Wegner gave Dixon one of the highest compliments for a circuit judge.

"He belonged in the appellate court," Wegner said. "Many people wanted to see him move up to that position, but he just didn't want to take that next step."

Wegner said Dixon's knowledge of the law would have made him a fine judge in appellate court, where appeals are heard and decisions made about what went right or wrong with a circuit court ruling.

"We collaborated on a lot of things, by virtue of the fact that he was the chief judge and had done it before, and I was chief judge from 1998 to 2002, so he was a great resource," Wegner said. "He was a guy who really understood law and kept up with the law."

Wayne Jensen of Elgin, husband of retired circuit court Judge Pamela Jensen, has been friends with Dixon since about 1970 when both were lawyers.

"He really made some tough decisions as a judge, especially with the U-46 School District elections regarding methods of dividing up votes," Jensen said. "He was a really smart man."

Jensen shared a fondness for Civil War history with Dixon, as both traveled to Gettysburg, Antietam and other battle sites.

It was ironic that Dixon passed away so close to St. Patrick's Day, as family and friends noted that he "loved everything Irish and Ireland" and showed that passion with memorabilia from his trips to Ireland, including walking sticks and hats.

That love also extended to his wife Shari Clancy Bertane, with her Irish family roots. After several years of being together, he married Bertane in 2006, but was diagnosed with the appendix cancer just six weeks later.

"Pat was a man of great strength," said Bertane, herself a lawyer in Kane County. "I believe that he did not lose his battle with this devastating cancer but rather that he won 4 more years to live a happy life with his wife, family and friends."

Dixon graduated with a law degree from Marquette University in 1966 and joined the Murphy and Griffin law firm in Aurora, while also teaching night classes at Waubonsee Community College.

After being appointed an associate judge in 1979, he was elected circuit judge in 1983 on his way to becoming the county's chief judge. After his retirement in 2002, he did return for one year as an interim appointee in 2006.

Dixon is survived by his wife; two sons, Sean Dixon of Macomb, and Liam Dixon of St. Charles; stepdaughter Clancy Bertane of Washington, D.C.; stepsons Ben and Max Bertane of Geneva; several grandchildren; a brother, Tim Dixon of New Lenox; and sisters Peggi Maher of Rockford and Maureen Ryan of Guerneville, Calif.

Visitation is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, 100 S. Third St., St. Charles. A memorial service will be held at noon Tuesday at the funeral home.