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“Humble, caring” city benefactor avoided the spotlight

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

The flag City Hall was lowered last week to honour a woman who whose generosity has made the Sarnia community a better place.

Norma Cox, a philanthropist and long-time city resident, died at home on Aug. 30, at age 94.

“A full list of Norma’s contributions, both in dollars as well as her time, leaves one breathless,” an obituary notice reads. “[She] taught several generations the meaning of giving and charity, and the value of kindness.”

Her contributions included more than $1 million to repair and revitalize what’s now known as the Cox Youth Centre Pool & Splash Pad in south Sarnia in 2005; and the Norma and Edward Cox Scholarship awards, given annually to local high school students for volunteerism and charity.

In 2015 she provided $825,000 to create Cox Gardens in Germain Park. The 2.5-acre site features meandering pathways that connect to different venues perfect for yoga, tai chi and meditation. A nearby amphitheatre was added for small outdoor summer concerts organized through the Strangway Centre. The centrepiece is a ‘garden within a garden’ containing more than 1,200 marigolds in honour of Cox’s mother, Mary Ann Clarke, whose favourite flowers were marigolds.

She also proudly carried the torch through Sarnia ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

“Norma believed in her projects and supported them any way she could, with her husband Ed’s name always added to each,” the death notice read.

“She was generous, humble, caring, and feisty and I greatly enjoyed the pleasure of her company,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “She lived a life based on hope, optimism and caring for others.”

Born, raised and educated in East Canton, Ohio, Norma Neal met and married Ed Cox, and relocated to Detroit where he worked. In retirement, the pair chose to settle in Sarnia in 1972. Ed died in 1998.

“Contemplating life alone, and without family, Norma devoted herself, and the good fortune life had provided her, to the needs of others,” the obituary read, adding that for years, she volunteered at the hospital’s gift shop and, along with her quilting sisters, “stocked the shop with wonderful creations.”

Cox received numerous awards and accolades for her contributions — often made anonymously — but never revelled in the spotlight, Mayor Bradley said. “Norma never sought the spotlight or recognition. However, because of her life, that recognition came to her.”

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