Ernest Newton Dickinson, a journalist, saxophone player, and fisherman who hit the Cape Cod beaches at 4 a.m., died on Jan. 16, 2021 at Seashore Point in Provincetown, his home for the last several years. He was 101 years old.
Ernie was born on St Patrick’s Day, 1919 in New London, Conn. He was raised mostly by his aged, eccentric grandfather, Thomas Newton Dickinson, who remembered the Civil War. They lived in a large Victorian house in Mystic, Conn. When young Ernie complained that there was nothing to do, Grandpa would point to the Mystic River and say, “Go a-fishing.”
In high school, Ernie trained to be a boxer, taking the name Dickie Boy Dickinson. In his first big fight he took on Pig-Sticker Stanton and knocked him out. Shocked, Ernie raised his arms in victory and immediately retired. “The word was the big guys from across the river wanted to take me on,” he said.
After graduating from Trinity College in 1941 with a B.A. in English, Ernie hitchhiked to Chicago, then to San Francisco. He remembered going door to door down one side of the street and getting bread with peanut butter. Another young traveler got jam and they made sandwiches. Riding the rails on the way back in frigid freight cars, he asked to sleep in a city jail in Montana.
He served in both the Army and Navy in World War II. That this dual military service would have entitled him to two honor guards at his funeral was not lost on Ernie.
He worked for several newspapers, including the New York Times, the Hartford Courant, and the Patent Trader in Mount Kisco, N.Y. He also worked for the public relations firm Ruder and Finn. During his long career in journalism he reported on Parliament and interviewed Tallulah Bankhead. He covered the circus for a week, playing a clown and watering the elephants.
He and his second wife, Lorraine, moved from their home in Chappaqua, N.Y. to North Truro in 1991, having vacationed there for many years. She wrote for the Cape Codder, and, when she died, Ernie took over writing her “Cod Capers” column.
A lover of dogs, he disliked cats until a stray calico kitten appeared and refused to leave. Ernie eventually wrote a popular book, The Companion Cat: How to Live Up to a Cat’s Expectations and Get It to Live Up to Yours. He appeared on The Today Show to demonstrate how he had trained Georgie to walk across a tightwire.
Ernie took up the saxophone at 85, and thereafter began playing harmonica. Shortly before his death, he was taking ukulele lessons. He was regularly in the audience at jazz clubs in New York City. Ernie also practiced ice dancing and earned a bronze medal in competition.
He loved fishing — freshwater, saltwater, hole-in-the-ice fishing, clamming — and once caught a 50-pound striped bass at Longnook Beach.
Ernie is survived by his daughters, Irene Goff of Vienna, Maine and Ann Scalley of Wellfleet; his third wife, Georgia Dullea of New York City; and five grandchildren. A son, Tom, predeceased him.
To leave an online condolence for the family, visit gatelyfuneralservice.com.