This is the text of the eulogy that Emily and I wrote to our daddy for his funeral services on August 4, 2017:
I am proud to say that I am John’s oldest daughter, Alison, and I am even more proud to tell you today about him. My younger sister, Emily, is equally as proud but couldn’t speak for fear of ugly crying in public.
Our dad was born on June 13, 1951, to our grandparents, John and Dorothy Cox, in Canton, OH, the second child of what would become eight Cox kids. Hopefully you got to see some of his childhood pictures because man, those kids are cute! The Cox family suffered more loss and sorrow than many other families but through that, they learned to be resilient and how to stick together. Team Cox was born!
Shortly after graduating from Massillon Washington High School, Dad enlisted in the army for fear of the draft. He did one separated tour in Vietnam, all the while envying his brother Tim who was stationed in Germany at the same time. Around the time that Dad returned from Vietnam, his beloved Aunt Elaine set him up on a blind date for her work Christmas party. As fate, or Grandma Elaine would have it, that blind date was our mom, Pam. Sparks flew and they were married by Memorial Day! These two young kids had ten childless years to travel in a Volkswagen bus, camp, hike, and share their lives with Sheba the cat and Roxane the dog.
In 1982, after those 10 years, they FINALLY had their first born – me! The “accident,” as my lovely father liked to call me, ended their childless fun. We made our own though, as a family of three, and after six years of begging and pleading for a sibling, in 1988, the “mistake” as our loving father called her, Emily, was born and we were complete. Together as a family of four we camped and hiked and went on many a vacation to the Outer Banks and, in the early years, stayed in some truly questionable accommodations. On two occasions, mom and dad stayed in far nicer accommodations with our very dear friends Bill and Michele Kay in the Bahamas and Cancun. Seems unfair, right? In their defense, they definitely needed those vacations and they did make up for it with much more suitable rentals on future trips with family and friends.
Dad’s working years were spent designing kitchens and bathrooms and building and installing his work. He did beautiful work and loved so much of it, but more importantly, through that work, he made wonderful, lifelong friends who became like brothers to him and who have become like uncles to Emily and me – John Svette and Fred Meinhardt.
Shortly after my high school graduation in 2000, our family of four was rocked beyond belief when our mom suddenly passed away. This devastating event was the birth of the threesome: Dad, Emmy, and me. Together, through a lot of trial and error and a lot of pain, the the three of us learned to love again, laugh again, get on each other’s nerves, and – perhaps most importantly- to apologize! In 2004, we welcomed our beloved English mastiff, Geordie, who truly put our family back together again.
Let’s talk about 2007. During this year, Dad was not only recovering from lung surgery but also embarked on two once in a lifetime trips! One to Mt. Everest to support his beloved nephew Brian – affectionately known by both of our parents as Mr. B – as Brian summited the mountain, and another trip to the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Speaking of motorcycles, one of his favorite things to do was to explore the country from the seat of his Sporty 887 or his Anniversary Edition Dyna Low Rider. While he was at Sturgis, he put his photography skills to work and spent his time people watching and taking photos of fat men on motorcycles and half naked women! He liked to have a theme, OK? In 2008 he rode his bike across the US to Washington state to visit his favorite sister and attend his nephew’s graduation party! In true Dad fashion, he set out without travel arrangements and I was the happy recipient of an angry phone call from the middle of Iowa late at night from a lost motorcyclist who got waylaid from a detour. We got him set up a hotel (once I “found him”) and in the morning, I got another call letting me know that, in a strange twist of fate, he found himself in the same town that he and Mom had broken down in thirty-five years prior. Needless to say, Dad was not a fan of Iowa.
One day, a little over five years ago, dad began talking about his “neighbor lady.” He woo-ed Gail by bringing treats while sick, taking her on hikes in the metroparks, introducing her to new experiences, and learning to love again. Together they travelled to Florida (while the rest of us endured the -30 degree temperatures in Cleveland), went to Rolling Thunder, had numerous motorcycle rides, and lived life together!
In 2013, I married my husband Shane. Dad was so helpful with wedding preparations including making wood slabs and being the best co-host at our wedding! In 2016, we all travelled to the Outer Banks for Emmy and Chris’ beautiful beach wedding. Dad is currently under strict orders from the two of us to relay very specific details to Mom about our weddings – let’s all say a prayer he does a good job because you know she’s going to want to know the good stuff! Following Emmy’s wedding, 14 of our family members stayed in a house on the beach and continued our celebration of love in a place that was so special to our parents and to our family for so long – such great family time was had.
In February of 2017, Dad was diagnosed with Stage 1A pancreatic cancer. Like everything else, we faced this together with a fight and hope in our hearts – no one messes with Team Cox! Through our fight, we had a wonderful 5 and a half months filled with quality family time spent in hospitals, in a rehab facility, and on Gail’s front porch. We played countless games of Uno and – sorry Dad – but we totally let you win! In the midst of Dad’s battle, Shane and I found out that we were expecting Dad’s first grandson who he proudly nicknamed Eugene the Embryo! Hey Eugene!
Emmy, Chris, Shane, and I would like to take this time to thank Gail for not only loving Dad, but also for caring for him for the past nearly six months. It was a hard road, but we are glad he had you to travel it with. Thank you.
While far too short, Dad’s life was full. Full of love. Love for his parents, love for his siblings, love for Gail, love for his nieces and nephews, love for his friends, love for his in-laws, the Kipling family, so much love for his dogs – Fefe, Moe, Roxane, Shadow, Geordie, and yes, even Sadie – (let’s be honest – the most for his dogs), love for our mom, love for his girls. He’s travelled to 48 states (really Dad, you couldn’t make it to Rhode Island and North Dakota?!), trekked Mount Everest, accumulated thousands of miles on his Harley Davidson, hiked hours in his beloved forests, loved his family, and was one of the most generous men we will ever know! That is his legacy – the one that we will share with Baby Eugene – that he is kind, generous, loving, resilient, and simply the best.
Daddy, we are blessed to know you, and in so many selfish ways, we have been lucky to have you to ourselves for the past seventeen years. You are one of a kind and we are so fortunate to call you ours!
Ok – as Daddy would say – knock it off and enough screwing around! So I’ll just say thank you all for being here today, for supporting Emily and me, and most importantly, for celebrating our dad with us, and listening to his story!
John F. Cox
June 13, 1951 – August 1, 2017
Written with love by Emily F. Ringler and Alison A. Brennen on August 2, 2017.
Published in The Plain Dealer from Aug. 1 to Aug. 2, 2017