Donald M. Cox

Donald M. Cox

SOUTH BEND — Longtime Long Beach and Ilwaco resident Donald Merle Cox, 100, died peacefully in his sleep in South Bend on Nov. 1, 2021, which was incidentally his mother’s birthdate.

Don was born in Portland, Oregon on Jan. 7, 1921, the son of Delvin and Katherine (McLaughlin) Cox. Don grew up the youngest of three brothers. They lived the first handful of years in Roosevelt, Wash., until the family moved to the newly-developed town of Longview in 1926. He graduated from R.A. Long High School, class of 1938, before attending both Lower Columbia Jr. College and Washington State College (WSC).

Born into the “Roaring Twenties,” it was the Golden Age of Radio, the Silver Screen (Silent films transitioned to “Talkies”), and most importantly for Don, sports. He fondly remembered pulling any various sporting match together with the neighborhood kids as often as possible. He’d find a ball and they’d all play. During his youth, he mentioned going to the YMCA to play basketball for 8- to 10-hours a day. In a tight 3-ft. wide hallway at home, Don and his brothers competed for hours with a tennis ball and makeshift basket made from a wire coat hanger.

Don went on to play organized basketball, fast pitch softball and tennis in school and even earned a runner up title of Athlete of the Year at LCJC, but he was clearly captivated by all sports. One of his earliest memories was as a 6-year-old, listening to a boxing rematch between Dempsey and Tunney (Long Count Fight), on a radio from a neighbor’s porch. In the summer of 1929, when he and his brothers Delvin and Howard were staying with their grandparents, their mother wrote a letter and mentioned sending money specifically so Donald, eight at the time, could go to the local ballgames.

In later years, Don would become an avid bowler and golfer and would win a number of competitions in each sport. Upon retirement he could be found on the golf course three to four times a week. He was proud of his time as Astoria Golf and Country Club President, where he was a member since the 1960s. Over the years he managed to ace six hole-in-ones.

Don’s greatest life “hole-in-one,” was his 75-year marriage to Margery R. Harris on May 7, 1944, in the First Christian Church in Camas, her childhood hometown. They met the summer of ‘35, at the ages of 11 and 14, at a church camp on Lacamas Lake, where they fondly recalled playing horseshoes together. They would have four children Donna (‘47), David (‘48), Susan (‘53) and Cathi (‘61). Don’s parents had nearly celebrated 40 years of marriage themselves, before his father’s passing in 1956.

Don served in the Army Air Force, enlisting the summer of 1943. He ultimately joined the WWII war efforts on the Island of Guam where he was stationed for over a year as a member of the B29 Bomb Group in the 20th Air Force. He worked a makeshift pharmacy and lab in a Quonset hut that the medics put together. He received an honorable discharge from the military on Feb 28, 1946. In May 2016, Don had the opportunity to take what turned out to be a very moving trip on an “Honor Flight” back to Washington DC, accompanied by his grandson Will Noonan, to reflect upon and honor his time in the service.

In 1946, post-war, he would go back to finish up school at WSC earning his degree in Pharmacy. He and Marge with daughter Donna in tow, then returned to his hometown in Longview where he worked for Irv Gunderson, at Gunderson Drug Store for a few years. Don and Marge moved to Long Beach in 1950 when he bought into a drug store partnership, where he would oversee stores in Long Beach, Ilwaco and Ocean Park. Don bought out Davis Drug store in South Bend, starting South Bend Pharmacy in 1958. He also purchased Sempill Drug store a year later, growing the business which is now into the third generation of the family. His son, David and two grandsons, Craig and Matt Cox, all followed in his footsteps with pharmacy careers.

Always proud to serve the community, Don was also active in Scouts, served many years on several School Boards, and he played a major role in advocating for a new Long Beach grade school to replace the old two-story wood building. He was an advocate for the formation of Timberland Regional Library, chaired the County Cancer Society and South Bend Labor Day committees, and is credited with coining the phrase still used today, “Come and Play on Labor Day.”

In recent years, Don was still golfing at age 98, but when he wasn’t playing he seized every opportunity to watch or listen to a game or sports match on TV or the radio. Don also loved to see his kids, grandkids and great-grandchildren follow his love of sports and pursue their individual passions. In recent months, it brought him great joy to see daughter Cathi win the Oregon Coast Invitational Women’s senior championship in August 2021. He was married to Marge, the love of his life, for an amazing 75 years. After her passing on February 24, 2020, Don soon moved in with his son David and wife Debbie, in their home in South Bend, where he continued to watch televised sports, enjoyed sunsets over Willapa Bay and cherished his time with family.

He is survived by his daughter, Donna Noonan of Portland, Ore.; son, David Cox of South Bend; daughter, Susan Cox of Mesa, Ariz.; and daughter, Cathi Barta of Mt. Vernon, Wash; 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. A celebration of his life is planned to be held for close family and friends on a future date at the Astoria Golf and Country Club.

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Carla Schmidt

I worked many years with this wonderful man, he will be missed , Rest in Peace Don, sending my condolences to all his family and friends.

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