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October 12, 2013

Dave Cox dies after brief illness

Former Tribune-Star editor remembered for work with Sisters of Providence

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute native David H. Cox, who turned his passions for reading and writing into a lifetime career, has passed away at the age of 61. He died Thursday following a brief illness.

Cox began working immediately after graduating from Schulte High School, taking his talents to Crawfordsville, where he worked as sports editor for The Journal-Review and sports information director for Wabash College.

In 1975, Cox returned to his hometown to join the staff of the Terre Haute Star, reporting on government, education, crime and business, and writing features. He eventually joined the Star’s management team, serving first as city editor and later as editor until the newspaper merged with The Tribune, Terre Haute’s other newspaper, in 1983. After working in several management positions for the Tribune-Star, Cox was named editor of the newspaper in 1992.

For the past 14 years, Cox worked as the media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, alongside Sister Ann Casper.

 “He had a great passion for the Sisters of Providence and our values,” Casper, the executive director of the Office of Congregational Advancement, told the newspaper on Friday. “He was in the community [of the Catholic faith] and a great communicator for us, a great advocate.”

Casper indicated that Cox served as a bridge between the Sisters and the Terre Haute community. She also noted his integral role for the Sisters during the canonization of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. “He was our point person with the media, not only the local media, but the national and international media as well,” she said.

A story published just last month in the National Catholic Reporter gave insight into the man Casper said “was a pretty private person and did not reveal much about himself.”

When asked by the interviewer about his image of God, Cox said he embraced God as a parent and a partner. But his next comment for the story, one prompted by his becoming a Providence Associate, provided readers with a glimpse into his character. “… I would just love to pull up a chair alongside God’s chair, have some iced tea and play a game of Scrabble. Just have a good conversation. What a learning experience that would be. Of course, God would win the Scrabble game,” Cox was quoted as saying.

Cox’s other hobbies included gardening and playing an occasional game of golf. He was an avid reader, walker and sports fan.

He was married to his wife, Brenda, for more than 42 years. The couple has two grown children, Brian and Sara, and two grandsons.

Former colleagues and community leaders reflected on Cox’s lasting contributions to his community.

Jack Meany, a past Tribune-Star publisher, recognized Cox’s talents, promoting him to the newsroom’s top leadership post.

“Every time I open the paper and look at the School Zone, I think of Dave Cox,” the 73-year-old Meany said when reached by phone while on a visit out of state. “I think if we had to point to any major accomplishment during his time at the paper,” that would be it, “and it still survives today.”

Meany noted that Cox was a self-taught journalist who gained the respect of his newsroom colleagues, many of whom had earned college degrees in the field.

Max Jones, the current editor of the Tribune-Star, spoke fondly of his one-time co-worker and predecessor. “Dave was a quiet leader who remained on an even keel no matter the circumstances. He led by example and helped steer the Tribune-Star’s newsroom staff through some tumultuous times. He was always one you could depend on to do or say the right thing,” Jones said.

“He was one of the most talented individuals I’ve ever worked with. He was an excellent writer, had a keen eye for graphic design and presentation,” Jones continued, “and always demonstrated good judgment. He had the ability to deal in details while at the same time keeping an eye on the big picture.”

David Patterson, the executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, got to know Cox through shared community endeavors. Patterson said his friend was a positive influence, setting a good example by looking circumspectly at issues and not rushing to unfair conclusions.

“Everybody has those people who positively influence them,” Patterson said, “and Dave was that person for me. He was a kind, quiet and thoughtful man. He stayed calm and he dealt fairly with controversy.”

Patterson recalled a time almost two decades ago when he was only two days into his new job as the county tourism director. While meeting for the first time with the then-editor, Patterson recalled, the pair were approached by an angry public servant, who began criticizing Cox for a recent editorial. Patterson said that rather than respond in anger, Cox calmly stood up for the editorial before moving on to another issue.

Patterson said that he always found Cox to be fair in his dealings with people.

“He was always an open forum for discussion, whether it was campus issues and how that related to the community, or just letting me bend his ear about ideas, and giving me good feedback or direction,” Patterson said.

Cox and Patterson collaborated to bring wider attention to the Sisters of Providence faith community and mission.

“Dave was always a good, community-minded person. He was a servant through the newspaper and through his association with the local bowling leagues, and later on, our friendship deepened when he was with the Sisters of Providence,” Patterson said.

Cox passed along his affection for bowling to his children, who participated in youth and high school leagues and competed at the collegiate level.

“I remember Dave as being a family man, traveling all over the state with his wife and children to bowling tournaments,” said Rick Braden of the Terre Haute Bowling Center. “He was a dedicated person, and he was always active with his daughter and son, even when they bowled in college.”

Cox also worked part-time for a brief period at the bowling alley, Braden said, and many people in the bowling community knew him.

Gordon and Tharon Geckeler, the owners of Vigo Bowl, recalled the Cox family as being close-knit and supportive of one another.

“He was always a friendly guy,” Gordon Geckeler said. “He bowled for the fun of it. And he was always here when the high school teams bowled and his son and daughter were on teams. They were a very involved family.”

When speaking with the National Catholic Reporter about his work at The Woods, Cox cited being a member of the congregation’s Anti-Racism Team and his role in Human Rights Day planning among his accomplishments.

Civil rights activist Theressa Bynum, a longtime member of the Greater Terre Haute Branch of the NAACP, said Cox “was just a wonderful, beautiful human being.”

“He was a person who I would call pure of heart and just a gentle soul, very inspirational. He would do what he could for anyone,” she said. “He touched my heart, and he will be sorely missed. He’s the kind of person we need more of in this world.”

His positive outlook often offset the negativity of others, Bynum said.

“He did good work. We could always count on him to do and say the right thing,” she said. “He’s been a blessing.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard. greninger@tribstar.com. Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@ tribstar.com.

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