Louise Cox

(Virginia Louise Cox)

             May 4, 1914 - October 7, 2007            

Murray Schemmer, Louise Cox and Ron Ferguson at the Giant's of the Earth Book Discussion Group early in 2007

 

    Louise Cox was born on May 4, 1914, in her parents' farmhouse along Old US 27 south of Winchester (a house now serving as a hair salon).  Her father Guy W. Cox was a farmer, and her mother Estella (Burk) Cox was a telephone operator.  Louise was their first child, to be joined in later years by her sisters Geraldine, Irene, and Phyllis. 

 
    From very early in her life, Louise was plagued by debilitating asthma and coronary weakness.  She remembered a time in sixth grade when she was so thin that she couldn't bear to sit on the school chairs without a cushion.  While other kids were outdoors playing and working, Louise had to remain indoors and ended up doing a lot of reading.  As a result, at Wayne Township School and later at McKinley High School, she excelled in all her studies, particularly in Latin and art.  Her schoolmate Harold Johnston always insisted that "Louise was the smartest woman in Randolph County."  Despite her illness during childhood, Louise's life was not completely different from that of other kids of her time.  She helped out with house and farm chores when she was able, preferring indoor work and especially disliking having to gather eggs because she was scared of the hens.  
 
    Reminiscing about her childhood, Louise would speak about moving with her family at least twelve different times, always in the Winchester area.  When Louise was five years old, her family was living on the Burk farm north of White River Friends Church at the east edge of Winchester, and Louise remembered walking to church and being frightened to walk across the bridge just north of the meetinghouse.  Her family got their first automobile when Louise was 12.  Prior to that, they traveled by horse and buggy.  During her early teen years, the family lived near Jericho Friends Church southeast of Winchester, and Louise remembered enjoying participating in Sunday School and Christian Endeavor there.  By the time she was in her late teens, the Cox family had returned to the White River community, and Louise was a student at McKinley High where she graduated around 1932. 
 
    In the ten years following her high school graduation, Louise's poor health prevented her from seeking employment outside her parents' home.  Louise told Winchester Friends that in the midst of that discouragement, in 1933 she experienced a profound spiritual awakening during revival services held at White River Friends by evangelists Nettie Springer and Inez Bachelor.  At one point during her 20s, she had to be in a body cast for several weeks  to address severe pain from a vertebral problem.  Then, at age 29, Louise's asthma symptoms significantly reduced, enabling her to take employment for the first time in her life.
 
    Louise worked at the McCamish Slipper Factory in Winchester from 1943 to 1961.  As part of the casket making industry in east-central Indiana, the factory produced light footwear for bodies being viewed at funerals so that more expensive shoes wouldn't have to be buried.   Louise started out sewing the soles onto the slippers and later graduated to sewing the velvet or satin linings for caskets and the blankets that draped the bodies.  In the 1950s, caskets with divided lids became common, meaning that the lower half of the body was never viewed.  Orders for McCamish slippers plummeted, and the factory closed in 1961. 
 
    While Louise sought new employment for the next three years, she started her own typing business by advertising in literary magazines.  One contract came from a woman in Chicago who needed a manuscript typed for an instructional book for new immigrants to the USA.  Louise told the story of another job that came in from an author wanting his novel manuscript typed.  She was well into the work when the story became so racy that it offended her moral sensitivities.  She fulfilled the contract and returned the typed manuscript to the man along with his payment, telling him that she could not accept payment for typing such distasteful material.
 
    During those years, Louise also tried her hand at bookkeeping, working for a time at the new Wick's Pie Factory that occupied the old McCamish factory, and also for about two months for Winchester's Chrysler dealership until her father became upset over the late hours the manager expected Louise to work. Because Louise never got a license or learned to drive (she said she feared cars), her dad had to drive to town to get her on those evenings.  Louise said he probably did not trust the Chrysler man's motives (even though Louise was by then in her late 40s!).  Louise then took the state's employment exam and eventually was offered a job as a clerk/typist for the Welfare Department in the southwest corner of the county courthouse.  She ended up working in that job for over seventeen years.
 
   Louise lived with and cared for her parents throughout their later years.  Her mother died when Louise was just 48 years old, and her father died seven years later when Louise was 55.  At a point when Louise no longer wanted to care for the property on east Washington Street, she moved to an apartment in the Sunny Ridge housing area on Winchester's east side.  She resided there for several years until she needed additional help, and around 2004 she moved to the Summers Pointe assisted living center where she resided until her death.
 
    Louise was actively involved in worship and the ministries of Winchester Friends Church for a number of her later years.  She attended the Quaker Girls Sunday School class until it was laid down, then joined the William Penn class.  In her retirement years, she kept on painting landscape scenes, crocheting lap blankets for military veterans, collecting stamps, and reading a wide variety of books, just as she had done through much of her adult life.  When a Friend from her class moved to a nursing home in Ohio in the mid-1990s, Louise began sending her a letter each week describing that Sunday's meetings.  That soon grew into a ministry of correspondence with many other people as well.  Over her final several years, Louise's eyesight grew progressively worse due to macular degeneration to the point that she required extreme enlargement of print to be able to read it.  Despite that setback, Louise continued painting and reading for as long as she could, and she kept right on crocheting lap blankets by feel, and writing cards and letters to people by using her enlarging equipment.  When reading became impractical, Louise began listening to several books each week on audio tape, a service provided by the state library for the visually impaired.
 
    In mid-2007, Louise's doctor recommended that she begin receiving care from Hospice.  After coping with her steadily-weakening heart for many years, Louise died peacefully at age 93 at Summers Pointe on October 7, 2007.  She was preceded in death by her parents and by her sister Irene Bosworth.  She is survived by her sisters Geraldine Doolittle and Phyllis Gindhart and their families, by her brother-in-law Richard Bosworth and his daughter Nicki Owens and her family, and by many friends at Winchester Friends and Summers Pointe who will greatly miss her fellowship and encouragement.
 

 

Message Given at Graveside Funeral for Louise Cox
October 10, 2007
 
II Corinthians 3:2,3
 
    After writing his first letter containing significant chastisement to the Christians in Corinth, Paul learned that people there had questioned his authority to call their behavior sinful.  In his letter of reply, Paul addressed their challenge by asking in essence, "Do I need to give you a letter of recommendation?  Do I have to produce a written spiritual credential?"  He reminds them that he had invested many years in their spiritual lives and tells them that they are his letter, a living message of Christ's love written on their hearts and observable by everyone. 
 
    Of all of Louise's remarkable qualities, her ministry of letter writing may be my favorite.  On many occasions when Pam and I would visit a Friend in the hospital, we would find on their bedside table a card written by Louise to that ailing person.  Often, the card had not yet been opened, and the patient would ask us to read it to them.  It would almost always be a detailed recounting of the past Sunday's meeting for worship -- sermon content, things shared by Friends, prayer concerns, and other encouragement.  Because she could not see to take notes during worship, Louise would memorize all that information, then write it down when she got home later that day.  Reading her cards to others certainly made me think carefully about what I said during worship on Sundays!
 
   Just as Paul described the Christians at Corinth (II Cor. 3:3), Louise was to us a letter of love from Christ, a letter written on our hearts instead of stone or paper, a letter written in the Spirit rather than ink.  Louise's life was a unique letter of love to us describing what is possible for those who live in Christ's presence and power.
 
Louise's "living letter" tells us that:  (1) It is possible to live a life of profound vision, even without perfect eyesight.  Despite the visual impairment caused by her macular degeneration, Louise never stopped seeing beauty in her mind and soul and then expressing it on canvas and in her crochet and other handiwork.  She never stopped "seeing" the needs of others and giving of herself to try to meet those needs.
 
(2)  It is possible to live vigorously without perfect health or abundant physical energy.  Even when she felt unwell, Louise still disciplined herself to listen to books, write letters to others, and crochet lap blankets for people she would never meet.  In the final week of her life, Louise wrote notes of appreciation to all the staff members at Summers Pointe, and she was still crocheting lap blankets for veterans. 
 
(3)  It is possible to live richly without great material wealth.  Louise's life was marked by depth, by her consistent trust and contentment in the Lord's provision, and by her enjoyment of life's simple treasures.  After moving to assisted living and no longer having the opportunity to prepare food, Louise would remember favorite tastes and often would ask us to help her find recipes to share with the Summers Pointe kitchen.  When she was hospitalized about a month before she died, she was not enjoying the hospital meals and was not eating enough.  Pam offered to bring her a fresh peach, and Louise seemed to enjoy it as if it was the last one on earth.  We took a couple more to her to prove it wasn't.
 
(4)  It is possible to engage in meaningful ministry even if you don't have mobility.  Louise never had a driver's license and never drove a car, and in her later years she had trouble walking more than a few dozen feet.  Even so, she did not let that stop her from finding ways to help and bless people in many locations.  Louise determined to do what she could right where she was.
 
(5)  It is possible to live passionately and lovingly without the necessity of romance and marriage.  Many people wonder why a delightful, bright, caring person like Louise never married.  In discussing that with us, Louise told us that in her prime dating years, she had been too ill to have much of a social life.  Later, when she felt some social pressure to marry before she got too old, she said that she left it up to God, and she never felt spiritually led to pursue a romantic relationship with any individual.  She felt that those who were interested in her were not spiritually serious and would not be true partners with her in a life of discipleship.
 
(6)  It is possible to live in purity without being a Puritan.  As illustrated by her refusal to accept payment for typing the manuscript of what she considered a racy novel, Louise had a finely-honed sense of decency and sensitivity to impropriety.  When listening to books on audio tape, she sometimes quit in the middle of a story if the characters' immoral behavior or rough language got too offensive.  She did not hesitate to challenge wrong, but she took ownership of her feelings and did not condemn others or become "preachy" in expressing her views.  Her life declared her values, and words were not always necessary.
 
(7)  It is possible to hold strongly to Truth while still valuing relationships above being perceived to be "right."  As a lifelong Friend, Louise held firmly that violence and killing and war are incompatible with Christ's love.  She told junior high interviewers that she grieved the impact of the World Wars and the Korean War -- the loss of lives, the waste of vital resources, the hardships imposed on entire societies -- on her family members and on the nations involved.  Nevertheless, Louise for many years spent hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours crocheting miles of yarn into beautiful lap blankets that were donated as messages of love and concern for military veterans who were experiencing health problems or other challenges.
 
(8)  It is possible to be a fully-committed member without a formal certificate.  Louise never requested membership in Winchester Friends Meeting because she knew it would raise the church's assessment payment to Indiana Yearly Meeting, and her meager income would not allow her to contribute that extra amount.  No one, however, was more engaged or more faithful in the life and ministries of the church to the degree her health and circumstances would allow.  She was fully a member in the true meaning of membership, whether or not her name was on a list.  A few months prior to her death, the Ministry & Oversight recognized that fact and simply decreed that she was a member, whether she had requested it or not.  Louise didn't seem to mind -- in fact, she seemed pleased with that news.
 
    In these ways, and in many others, Louise's life was indeed a love letter to us from Christ.  By her friendship and ministry to us, she allowed Christ's message to be written into our hearts by the Spirit, with the clear expectation and challenge that we, with our unique lives and gifts, will now help write that letter of love into the hearts of others.
 
    We now "Return to Sender" this letter of love from Christ that was the life of Louise Cox, not because it was refused or undeliverable, but because it has been fully received and is now filled out and completed.  It is returned to her Sender with our gratitude for her life lived among us, for the good she allowed God to bring to the earth through her living, and for her showing to us what is possible in a life lived unreservedly for Christ.
 
 

Ron Ferguson
10 October  2007

 

Louise Cox
December 3, 2006
Advent Story

My first memory of church is when I was age five or six.  We lived at Grandmother Burkís farm a half mile north of White River Friends Church.  My mother was a member of the meeting, having attended there before her marriage.  Dad was raised in a Quaker family but did not attend service at that time.  They did see that their daughters went to Sunday School. Sometimes in the summer we walked and I remember holding tightly to my sisters hand for I was afraid of falling off the bridge into the river.

During my teen years we lived about two miles from the Jericho Meeting house and went there to Sunday School.  I was there at some worship services, too, for I remember one of the ministers, and I was part of the Christian Endeavor group of youth who met on Sunday evening for study and devotions.  In the 1930ís we had moved back near Winchester and returned to the White River Meeting.  They held revival meetings twice a year, and it was at a meeting led by two ladies, Nettie Springer and Inez Bachelor that my sisters and I and several other young people asked Jesus to come into our hearts.  I do not remember anything about the actual service, except that I felt different.  It was during the afternoon at home that I wanted to be alone and went outdoors to sit in the rope swing in the maple tree.  As I sat gently swinging, I felt so clean and floating through the air and Jesus was near.  I was 19, but the following years were often difficult.  I still had my asthma attacks and tachycardia.  After some years God healed me of the asthma and I was free of it for over 55 years.  I sought a closer walk with Him. 

I enjoyed many meetings, conventions, Quarterly Meetings, Yearly Meetings.  But sometimes I failed and during two periods ceased going to church.  God is faithful and doesnít give up on us when we stray.  About twenty years ago during a Bible Study session, as we gathered around one of the group to pray for healing, the presence of Jesus beamed so powerful, my life was changed again.  Jesus gave me peace again, His wonderful peace.  One regret is that I failed to memorize scripture verses, when my memory was better.  Learn all you can as early as you can.  Godís promises will be hidden in your memory and reappear when you need them.  I have made this little swing as a symbol of a place where the peace Jesus was given to me.   Thank you.

           

Louise's tree ornament was a handmade yarn girl on a swing on a branch.

Gertie Cox and Louise Cox in 2006

Louise Cox and Evelyn Fields in 2005.