There are not many people in Montverde, Florida who don’t have a fond memory or story to tell about Louise Cox.
“She was an awesome lady,” says Nancy Jo Davidson, one of Cox’s former 4-Hers and longtime friend. “She was one of the most honest, incredible people I have ever known.”
Joining 4-H as a teenager, Cox made what she described a “miserable” bib apron for her first sewing project. But, she enjoyed the club and decided to keep going. Not only did her sewing improve over time, but she developed great leadership skills and friendships that would last throughout her lifetime.
While a club member, Cox was selected to attend State 4-H Short Course with honors in clothing, gardening, food preparation and poultry. At the time, State 4-H Short Course was held at Florida State College for Women (now known as Florida State University) in Tallahassee. Ultimately State 4-H Short Courses for girls and boys were merged into what we know today as Florida 4-H Congress.
“My few years as a 4-H member showed me the opportunities available for others,” remembered Louise Cox.
As an adult, Cox saw the need for a 4-H club for girls. In 1945 she started her own club where members participated in county, district, state and national events. Former club members remember the effort Cox put into the club.
“She was always at every event,” said Davidson. “She always supported and chaperoned our events.”
“When I became the leader, I realized it was more than just BEING the leader. It was a learning time for me – a time of watching young girls and boys grown into worthwhile adults and a lifetime of friendships,” said Louise Cox.
Cox felt strongly that all 4-Hers should have the chance to go to camp, so she worked tirelessly to make sure that funding and logistics were arranged so children could attend camp. An avid swimmer, Cox took great joy in teaching all the children how to swim once they arrived at camp.
While Cox never married or had children of her own, she had many who considered her a mom and grandma.
“Over the 50 years that Louise worked as a 4-H leader, it was not uncommon to have two or three generations go through her club,” said Davidson. “She had so many people who loved her. She was a substitute mom to a lot of kids.”
To celebrate Cox’s 50 years of service to 4-H, Davidson helped organize a Golden Anniversary event in her honor.
“Louise kept everything,” laughs Davidson. “We went back and tried to find information on as many of her old 4-Hers as we could. We pulled pictures and old presentations.”
The night of the event, unbeknownst to Cox, nearly 40 of her former “kids” gathered in Montverde.
One by one, roll call style, these members were called on to the stage carrying a single yellow rose. Each offered a brief memory or experience they had shared with Cox and then presented the rose to her.
It proved to be both a funny and emotional evening. Many of the “kids” brought props as part of their memory. A former 4-Her who was the “camp terror” for several summers walked on stage with a roll of toilet paper.
“At the end of the evening, Montverde’s County Commissioner asked everyone in the huge room to stand and hold hands,” said Davidson. “He then took Cox into the center and presented her with a plaque for her years of service. After, he slowly turned her around so she could see the faces of all she had touched. There wasn’t a dry eye in that huge room.”
In addition to her service to 4-H, Cox was employed as a postal clerk for more than 30 years. She was a lifetime member of Montverde United Methodist Church where she took great joy in teaching her “little ones” in Sunday School for more than 40 years.
Shortly before her death in February of 2006, Cox told Davidson of the joy and purpose 4-H had brought to her life.
“It is the greatest satisfaction to have been in the life of so many,” said Cox. “To learn from them and still be learning.”