Della Yvonne Dickson
[January 5, 1955 – July 24, 2005]

Della Yvonne Dickson, beloved daughter, sister, friend, coworker, and Board of Directors member of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, passed away on Sunday, July 24, 2005, from complications of surgery. Della grew up in Des Moines, Iowa but lived in Eden Prairie, Minnesota at the time of her passing.

Della was an excellent student both in her youth and as an adult.  When she graduated from high school, she received a Junior Achievement scholarship award and a four-year scholarship award from American Republic Insurance (in both Business and Music). Della received an Associate Degree from Inver Community College, where she had a double major in Transportation and Finance.  In 1984, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. In 1994, she received a Master of Business Administration in Finance from the University of St. Thomas Graduate School of Business in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In 1980 she began a 25-year working relationship with Cargill, Incorporated.  She worked her way up in the company and held various positions, such as: Project Manager (North American Transportation & Logistics), Assistant Division Transportation Manager (Oilseed Processing Division), and Regional Transportation Manager (Flour Milling Division in Texas). She was a very dedicated and loyal worker, and her vast professional accomplishments led to her advancement.  As Project Manager, she developed an optimized equipment utilization plan for $1 billion transportation assets, managed cross-functional teams and led pilots to develop and implement new logistics business processes, and contributed to the development of sustainable, strategic information technology solutions. In her position of Assistant Division Transportation Manager, she managed $180 million of transportation assets, completed economic studies to aid senior management in acquisitions, business expansion opportunities, and strategy development; and worked to maximize distribution efficiency and lower operational costs. Also during her career, she was involved in the opening of a new solar salt plant in Freedom, OK in September of 1986 which moved 120,000 tons of salt annually.

Della was a member of the National Black MBA Association and enjoyed participating on the Board of Directors with the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center.  She was also a member of the Council of Logistics Management and the Association of Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy.

Della’s interests included cooking, traveling and spending time with family.  She enjoyed traveling overseas with family and friends and especially loved traveling with her parents. Not many family members lived near Della but she always stayed in close contact with them and visited several times a year. Della rarely missed family functions, such as graduations, holidays, or reunions, and just recently returned from a family reunion in Chicago.

Della loved serving in the church. She sang and often accompanied the choir by playing piano. Her church home at the time of her passing was Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Della was preceded in death by her brother, Authur Derby.  She is survived by her mother, Mary E. Rife, and her father, Leonard W. Rife, both from Des Moines, Iowa.  She also  leaves her sisters: Brenda Welch, Debra Knox, Janice Lintz, Pinkie Odessa Peake, all from Des Moines, Iowa, a Goddaughter Chloe Payne from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and many nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces. Della will be truly missed by many.

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center wrote the following tribute for Della, addressed to her family and delivered at her funeral services at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie on Thursday, July 28.

We pause in our activities today to pay a richly deserved tribute to the memory of a highly esteemed former Board Officer, Committee Chairperson and friend of the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center.  It is difficult to find words to express our deep regret at the loss of Della Dickson.

Della exemplified what the name of our organization stands for: hope, faith, courage and ambition.  Della was a woman of superlatively high standards, complete integrity and boundless enthusiasm for whatever task, she took in hand.  She had very special qualities; you could always depend on Della, she delivered and she did whatever she said she would do.

Della joined the Board of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in April of 1998. Our organization has been providing services to the community for 80 years.  Immediately when Della began on the Board she was appointed to key leadership positions in less than five months of service.  The Chairman of the Board at that time, states “she became my right hand person and my go to person on the Board. She helped me positively transition new leadership on the Board and staff at an extremely tumultuous time at Phyllis Wheatley.  During this time she helped me work with dissatisfied, skeptical and some unhappy people. Della provided critical support for the Executive Committee, Resource Development Committee and Camp Committee.  We always wanted Della to be Board Chair but she did not want the visibility, even though she did as much work as the Board Chairperson.”  She did, however, serve in the capacity of 1st and 2nd Vice Chair. Della guided and supported Phyllis Wheatley through a most difficult period in the history of our organization, for which we are infinitely grateful, by generously sharing her talents, expertise and knowledge.

During Della’s tenure she is responsible for obtaining funding and resources in a very difficult funding environment.  She helped the organization secure ongoing and substantial funding.

Della is responsible for providing the leadership and the completion of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center’s 2004 – 2006 Strategic Plan, A compass for the Future and A call to Action.  If she were with us today, we think she would be pleased to know that our 2004 Annual Report documents that we are in a financial positive net asset position.

Our Balance sheet shows marked asset increases over a comparative period of three years.  Our vendors are happy and even they are commenting favorably about the financial turn around of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center. Della’s faith in our organization, her tireless efforts, long distance commutes and commitment to Phyllis Wheatley has made this possible today.   Della touched our hearts and her imprint on Phyllis Wheatley Community Center most definitely carried us to state this good news today.  We feel a great sense of loss in her passing.   Her good work and what she stood for will be carried forward.

Della had an unsurpassable way of caring for others.  She demonstrated this time and again, and one such example occurred during our annual Santa Breakfast for which she secured the food donation and volunteered. She showed the true meaning of the holiday season with her concern for a guest who was going through an especially difficult time, and the subsequent food package she put together for her on the spot. People were naturally drawn to Della and her kind demeanor. We hope it will be of some comfort to you to know how much she did for our community and how much we appreciate her.

On behalf of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, we want to extend our deepest heartfelt sympathy and prayers to you on the loss of your loved one, Della. We share in your sorrow as we mourn the loss of an extraordinary friend and leader. In honor of her memory, we are designating the main cabin at Camp Katharine Parsons “Della’s Place.” We thank you for bringing this wonderful person to us. Her spirit will continue to shine at Camp Parsons and through all of our programs and services that help children, youth and families.