A Life Well Lived

Provider. Integrity. Work ethic.  These are all words that I would use to describe my dad.  Harold Deen Cox has lived his entire life working to provide for his family and setting an example of dedication and hard work.  He started working at a very young age and has continued to be the rock of the family throughout his life.  Dad has risen above his health issues to be the person that I look up to most in this world. Even though he would be described as a quiet man, he has had a successful career as a salesman, an amazing father, and just a great man.

Dad’s work ethic was inherited from his parents.  When dad was young, his dad farmed and worked for Kraft Foods part-time in Mountain Grove and the family lived on a farm in nearby Houston.  At the time, dad had an older sister and two younger brothers.  After his dad took a full-time job at Kraft, dad starting driving tractors at the age of ten and began doing custom combining for farmers in the area. When he was a freshmen in high school he teamed up with his two best friends, twins Bob and Don Coats.  The three young men were given the opportunity by the local John Deere dealer, to run a hay team.  The dealer provided the mower, rake, and baler and the boys ran the hay team for local farmers.   Only someone who showed exceptional integrity and work ethic would be allowed such an opportunity.

Dad’s integrity was awarded again during his freshmen year in high school when a local dairyman awarded a heifer to the outstanding FFA student. Dad won the award and his work ethic was again tested as he took care of his cattle and continued his hay business all while attending high school. By the time he started his senior year, he had built his herd to 12 head of cattle.

Although he is not sure when he was diagnosed with asthma, it grew to become life-altering as he grew up.  When he was in high school he attempted to play basketball but he couldn’t seem to keep up with breathing and playing ball, a side-effect of the asthma.  At the time, he wasn’t on any medication for the asthma and had managed to keep it under control with curbing his activity when necessary.  As years progressed, he eventually was put on medication.

The family’s life changed considerably during dad’s senior year. The Kraft Foods company moved the plant at which my grandfather was working to Springfield. The family had moved into town in Houston a year earlier when grandad took a full-time position, having an auction and selling everything including the hay equipment and dad’s cows. At that time, the family included his parents, sister, and dad’s two younger brothers and finally another sister. They all to Springfield in the middle of dad’s senior year and he graduated later that year from Central High School.

Dad began attending Southwest Missouri State University and worked at Kraft Foods during the summer.  He majored in agriculture but after a couple of years, he quit and took a job at Heuer Williams Wholesale Warehouse, a company at which he would work for the next 42 years.  He started in the warehouse and soon was named supervisor due to his exceptional work ethic.  He developed a system of organization in the three warehouses that involved numbers, letters and bins that would make finding the stock easier.  Each of the samples in the showroom had a size sheet in it that indicated where the stock was located, a system that dad developed.

It was during this time that dad met my mom at church.  She was working at Lily Tulip (Sweetheart Cup)   and living with Carolyn Blacksher and Ozella Walker, who were attending SMSU.  Dad and mom were married at the First General Baptist Church on June 2, 1956 with his hay buddies, Bob and Don Coats, standing up with them.  My sister was born a couple of years after they married and I was born two years after that.

Dad continued to work at Heuer Williams which owned five individual stores in addition to the warehouse.  On weekends, dad would work in the stores to gain retail experience which came in handy when they asked him to run the store in Leavenworth, Kansas.  Dad ran the store for two years before it closed due to the inability to compete with the PX store on the local military base. 

During his tenure in Leavenworth, our family welcomed the fifth member, my brother. Brad was born with considerable health issues. Dad and mom spent time going between Leavenworth and KU Medical center while their son received the medical attention he needed. They continued to make trips to KU even after the family moved back to Springfield.

When the Leavenworth store closed, we moved back to Springfield where dad managed the sample room at the warehouse and was made sales manager for the salesmen on the road. Dad would travel to areas that the salesmen covered, helping them when they took orders. He continued to do this for several years.

During the last twenty years of his career, dad and Dale Dryer, the owner of the company, worked together to pick shoe styles by traveling to New York to work with the manufacturer. They would pick the styles and dad would do the purchasing.  The national show was eventually moved to Las Vegas and they would then go there to plan the shoe styles.   To a healthy person, this would seem like an exciting life.  But dad would come home, breathing heavily, struggling to recover from being contained in a plane and forced to breathe cigarette smoke.  He never complained and continued to do his job and support his family.

His work ethic showed up in other areas of his life.  While managing the sales force, he also worked with his brother to build the house in which we lived most of my childhood.  We would go there every night and work on the house or pick up rocks in the yard until bedtime.  As we grew older and started our own families, dad filled his time with carpentry, mowing yards, and camping and fishing.    He enjoyed traveling and pulled the camper all over as well as spending time at Treasure Lake, a Branson RV Park. 

Another huge part of dad’s life is his love of sports, especially St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Dad took us to numerous baseball games while we were growing up and when I got attached to the Cincinnati Reds during my teenage years, he even drove me all the way to Cincinnati to see the Reds play. Dad used his contacts with Converse shoes to get seats right behind home plate. He also used his ties to get us special box seats at Cardinals games. To this day, he watches every Cardinals game on television and is known to watch re-runs when there is nothing else to watch.

In 2011, my mom died unexpectedly and life changed dramatically once again for dad. He continued to camp at Treasure Lake and enjoy Branson meeting new people. He has since remarried and has had the opportunity to take some amazing trips such as a cruise in Alaska, seeing the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas, and has been able to go on several cruises.

I have learned a great deal from my dad like “never get gas when it’s raining or when the tanker truck is filling the tank” and “mow your yard the same day every week if at all possible.” I’ve learned to walk out of the dealership over $100 because they’ll always call you back and deal. I learned that attending church is a very important part of being a Christian and always check your pants for dryer sheets before you pass the offering. I’ve also learned that if you put the tool back in its special place, it will always be there when you need it. And, most of all, I’ve learned that any day the Cards beats the Cubs is a good day.

Over the years, Dad’s asthma has turned into COPD, which limits his physical activity, but he continues to go to the fitness center daily, once again showing his work ethic. He is the epitome of a quiet spoken man of faith. Dad is the foundation for a family well-loved and will forever be my inspiration for living a life well lived.

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