In deep gratitude

1 year ago

To the editor:

Our son, James Thomas Cox, died at age 51 on Nov. 22, the third and last child to predecease my wife, Sandy, and me.  It is presumed he died of a heart attack while sleeping in his chair.

 Our family discussed traveling to Port Byron, Illinois, for the funeral.  Commercial air was out of the question for me. I cannot walk, I use a wheelchair, and I have Parkinson’s.  Fortunately, we were being visited by Dave LeJeune, a Navy friend since 1975 who had come up from Maryland to go deer hunting. He agreed to stay with us for as long as he was needed. 

The next day Jimmy’s Navy friend, Brian Steed of South Carolina, called.  Brian is a pilot with his own airport and planes. He and James attended Navy nuclear power school together, and both received orders to the USS Maryland. Brian offered to take Sandy, David and me to Illinois, which meant I wouldn’t miss a dialysis treatment. 

Brian and his 17-year-old son Logan, also a pilot, flew into the Caribou Municipal Airport in a twin-engine Cessna. We flew to Ohio and spent the night with Brian’s parents. The next morning we arrived in Moline, Illinois, and headed for the United Methodist Church for the funeral.

I led the exodus from the church in my wheelchair being pushed by Dave. Following were the casket with my grandsons Matt Hebert, Tom and Ben Cox, and my son-in-law Mack Hebert and four special family friends were pallbearers. Legionnaires rendered a 21-gun salute, followed by taps. The funeral director and an assistant removed the flag from the casket, folded it properly, and handed it to me.  

We flew back to Caribou with one fuel stop in Michigan.  Brian and Logan spent the night with us.

Our attendance wouldn’t have been possible if not for the gracious generosity of Brian Steed. We were all submariners.  Dave, a Master Chief, and I, a Senior Chief, served together (1975-77) in the USS Seawolf (SSN 575), the second oldest submarine in the U.S. Navy.  James was a qualified submariner, as was Brian.  

Brian Steed, Logan, and Dave LeJeune will always be heroes to the entire Cox family. We will be eternally grateful for their thoughtfulness and generosity.

Tony Cox