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Performer, teacher Cox dies

Gertrude Cox, longtime teacher, civic volunteer and patron of the arts, died Friday at the Alexander Cohen Hospice House in Hughson. She was 87.

Miss Cox was born in Oklahoma and moved with her parents at age 3 to Modesto. She attended local schools, including Modesto Junior College, where she joined the drama department in hopes it would help her overcome her shyness. During her time at MJC, she was an integral part of the troupe that won many awards.

One of her earliest stage triumphs came against a backdrop of tragedy.

In early June 1944, Miss Cox was putting the finishing touches on her costume and makeup for the opening night of "Craig's Wife," a Broadway hit about a woman who liked to mind everyone else's business.

She played the title role, and just before curtain time, she received a box of flowers with a personal note: "Leave us do good." It was signed by Wyman Baker, then a familiar figure in local drama circles who was overseas in the Army Air Corps.

"I don't know how he did it," Miss Cox remembered 50 years later. "And you just didn't get big bouquets like that very often. It was rare and so thoughtful."

Before Miss Cox could acknowledge and thank Baker, he was shot down and killed in the European theater.

She remained active in local drama circles for 50 years. One of her most memorable appearances was as "Auntie Mame" in the Modesto Little Theater Group's production of that play. More recently, she and fellow MJC dramatist Bob Smith shared the stage at the Denair Theater for performances of "Love Letters."

Taught in Modesto schools

Miss Cox continued her education at San Jose State and San Francisco State colleges and began her teaching career at Shiloh School west of Modesto. After one year she moved to Stanislaus Union School as a kindergarten teacher. Most of her career was in teaching second and third grades; she completed 30 years as an educator while teaching fourth grade.

In retirement, Mixx Cox volunteered at the McHenry Mansion, where she was in the first class of docents. She spent 16 years and was known as "The Lady of the House." Miss Cox also was a member of the McHenry Museum, the Shakespeare Club, the American Association of University Women and the Retired Teachers Association.

Calling on her experience with young students, Miss Cox wrote the copy for five Splasher water safety booklets published by the Modesto Irrigation District. The booklets were distributed to schools at no charge by MID.

Miss Cox is survived by her sister, Gene Cox; and brother, Wally Cox.

Eaton Family Funeral and Cremation Service, Modesto, is in charge of arrangements. A family memorial service is planned for later.

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