Bill Cox was born in 1928, a year before the Great Depression. He grew up in New Albany, Mississippi. His father left his mother, the late Alma Cox, as a single mom to raise three sons and a daughter as well as to bury another son at 18 months of age. All of this childrearing took place during the entirety of the great depression and into WWII. She would raise chickens and sell eggs to survive. Bill would tell about going to an uncle with a bucket asking to borrow enough coal for the night in order to keep warm. He also would tell about walking several miles without the rest of his family to attend church on Sunday because an aunt would invite him over for a big Sunday lunch. Perhaps this reveals to us one reason why Bill loved to share in meals with others.
He graduated from high school in New Albany, Mississippi. He attended a Jr. College for 2 years before enlisting in the Air Force in 1948, for six years. He served at Clark Air Force Base, the Philippines and as a support liaison during the Korean Conflict. For his service, he received two Bronze Service Stars, and numerous other federal medals.
On Saturday Feb 9, 1952, the Myers Family from Gladeville attended a social gathering at the Stewart Air Force Base in Smyrna. A blonde hair young man walked up to Royce and asked to square dance with her. Later that evening they agreed he would attend church with her and her family the next day. They even ate Sunday lunch together. It was the beginning of a quick journey of falling in love. Bill not only fell in love with her, but also her family. She had a father he had never had. Less than three months later they married on May 3, 1952, enjoying over five decades together before Royce’s passing in 2004.
Once married they first lived with her parents in Gladeville, but then moved to a house on Elm Hill Pike in Donelson. During this time they worshiped at Lebanon Road church of Christ where some of our members first met them. Things became challenging for Royce when Bill was transferred and moved the family to Baltimore. Royce cried every day because she was homesick. One day Traci, who was just a little girl, told her mother if she would go all day without crying she would give her a prize. This was after they had been there about a year. Royce didn’t get the prize. Finally in 1974, to Royce’s delight they moved back to the south. They decided to worship at Mt. Juliet so the girls would have youth around them. The Cox family has been a blessing to the congregation for 43 years. His long term employment was as a food broker working along with Ronnie Sneed. During these days they describe their life as being so blessed. Bill would pull his car into their drive on Stewarts Ferry Road at 6:00 with all three girls waiting on him. Mrs. Royce would have supper on the table and they all enjoyed the evening together. He and Royce along with God had created a wonderful life. During this time Bill didn’t have hobbies that he couldn’t share with his girls. When he bought a horse it was for all of them to ride together and they did! They would go on Sunday rides or picnics together. He would take each girl individually on a business trip with him. They would be with him as he worked during the day, but then they had all his attention at the hotel as they would swim, eat out for supper and love one on one time with their daddy. He even took them to see Hank Aaron hit homerun #715, breaking Babe Ruth’s record for most homeruns. Each girl secretly believed they were his favorite! Telia told about a precious, wise moment with her father when she was in high school. She had bought a dress for a formal event. When Bill came in from work she showed it to him. Without any flair of emotion he simply looked at the dress he considered to be immodest saying, “No, you won’t wear that.” She was disappointed until the next afternoon she came in from school to see three beautiful dresses laid out. Bill had gone shopping. Not Mrs. Royce, but Bill. He told her to pick the one she liked the most. She was thrilled. Bill was strong and sweet.
Their life would continue to be wonderful, but with additional challenges. Later in life when Mrs. Royce was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Bill showed all of us what life looks like honoring wedding vows; “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death parts us.”
When Royce was sick he went to Castner’s to learn how to put on her makeup. He continued to buy her pretty dresses, jewelry, shoes as well as to learn how to fix her hair. When we saw him roll her into the foyer each Sunday or Wednesday she was beautiful. She was complete from her hair, makeup, dress, jewelry and even with matching shoes and purse. He also continued to host people in their home as they had done for years because he thought Royce enjoyed it. He would dress her and cook the meal. Bill was strong and sweet.
Bill’s faith was STRONG. The man we loved and admired was created after the image of Christ (Col 3:10). Bill first told Royce he would continue in the denomination that he was in. But after just a few months of worshipping with her, he said he saw the truth about needing to be baptized. He loved the Lord’s church. He loved Kingdom work. He delivered Meals On Wheels when he was the one who should have been receiving it. He was a faithful, obedient man of God who did what he could do wherever he was. Even in his older years he still brought others to church. He never stopped reading his Bible. He kept it by his chair in his den on his night stand. As he grew older the time came where he bought a new Bible with bigger print. He always read the Holy Scriptures. He gave Royce a Bible for Christmas in 1985. On the “presented to” page it says, “To: Royce M. Cox. By: Bill Cox.” On the two blank lines he wrote these words that reveal the source of their strength and beauty in their marriage; “By our mutual Love for God and for His Word.” He strongly believed the words he would tell his family; “We don’t HAVE to go to church, We GET to go to church.” He would even wake the whole family up early on Sunday morning to hear a religious program on TV that he thought did a great job of teaching scripture. Bill served as a deacon at a few different congregations.
Bill was PRODUCTIVE. Bill was always doing something good. One time DeWayne Griffin mentioned he liked Bill’s 30 foot tall flag pole. In a matter of a few weeks the Griffins had one in their yard. If there was a fundraising dinner Bill would bring his appetite and checkbook. He probably visited more sick, hospitals, assisted living homes, and funeral homes than most of us put together. If he were given a dollar for every mile he gave a ride to someone he could have bought a few more Buicks. Not through a civic organization, but completely by his own doings, he regularly picked up trash around Stewart’s Ferry Pike. He also was a lifetime donor of 11 gallons of blood. Bill didn’t spend much time talking about whether or not to do something, he generally was already doing it.
Many of you have described Bill in various ways. You said he was dedicated, dependable, faithful to his God, loved being around people, kind, gentle, patient as Job, never met a stranger, never gave up, a fighter, a goer, always into something, never sat down, incredible capacity to forgive, a godly husband, detailed communicator, good neighbor, true friend, most inviting and hospitable people (Bill and Royce) you ever met, happy, friendly, one of the most loving people I have ever known, servant of God, inspiration, hero, positive, amazing example, caring, greeter of all, always smiling, always present, put others first, always asked about whatever concern you had in your life, encouraged me through my struggles, always paid attention to the family at MJ, pleasant, true Christian, great sense of humor, sweet, sweet man, fun-loving, sacrificial, loving, friend, Christ-like in every way, keeper of the clock, and a perfect gentleman.
It is rare to see a man pass from this earth at 89 years of age who continued to touch lives of all ages to the end. Bill’s funeral was mid-morning last Thursday with an unusually full chapel of friends gathered. His sweet family continues to bless our lives. Let’s all offer prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of Bill in our lives and offer prayers of comfort for the family. We especially extend our support, love and comfort to his daughter and son-in-law, Rusty and Traci Morrow, as well as his grandson, Drew, who are here at Mt Juliet. We love them dearly. Until we meet him again, let us live faithful and grow the kingdom.