PEWAUKEE, Wis. -- Funeral services were held last week for John Dickson, former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Roundy's here.
Dickson, 65, died Dec. 2 after battling cancer for about a year. He held many industry positions at retail and wholesale companies in a career that spanned more than 40 years. In June he relinquished his roles at Roundy's and became chairman emeritus and a consultant to his successor, Gerald Lestina. Lestina currently holds the titles of president and CEO. The posts of chairman and chief operating officer remain vacant and are expected to remain empty for some time. They are generally used only when the company is preparing for a transition at the top.
Dickson joined Roundy's as president and CEO in June 1986 and became chairman in December 1993. He headed the company for nine years.
Dickson was considered instrumental in bringing Roundy's into the new age of computer information and in standardizing buying and accounting practices.
Last week Lestina called Dickson his "mentor." "His favorite saying was, 'The walls that box me in are not walls at all but the path of least resistance which I choose to follow.' He was very creative with regard to looking outside the box, very innovative," Lestina said in a telephone interview.
"He was diagnosed [with cancer] about a year ago and he never once complained. He truly believed up until the last week that he was going to beat it. That spirit says a lot about the man."
After graduation from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, in 1954, Dickson joined Loblaws Supermarkets in Buffalo, N.Y. as a manager trainee. He rose through the ranks to buyer. In the early 1960s he worked for Loblaws' subsidiaries in the Pittsburgh area, and later moved to Cincinnati to work for Colonial Food, an Atlanta-based supermarket company. In the early 1970s he worked for Shoprite Foods and was later named executive vice president. In 1976 Dickson joined Fox Grocery Co. and eventually became vice president and general manager of the Pittsburgh division, staying on for two years after Wetterau acquired the company. In 1983 he moved to Wetterau headquarters and eventually headed the company's Food Distribution group's central region.
When he took the helm of Roundy's in 1986, he led a firm with wholesale operations in 12 states and some 5,000 employees.
In 1993, he gave up his title of president to Gerald Lestina, who was chief operating officer at the time. Last June, Lestina took over the CEO position. Lestina relinquished the chief operating officer position at that time.
Funeral services for Dixon were at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. He is survived by his wife, Kathy; five daughters; one son; one brother, and 12 grandchildren.
The family requested that donations be made to the John Dickson Memorial Cancer Fund, c/o Harder Funeral Home, 18700 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield, Wis. 53045.