by Sarah Toom
Did you know Neville Cox? He was many things to many people in this area, but certainly Mission was never to be the same after he arrived. ‘Nev’ to me, was the boisterous Englishman who had the magical ability when I was growing up, to steal the nub of nose between his fingers, making it re-appear behind his ear. My grandfather was always finding ways to make people laugh.
On May 27, Neville passed away quietly. It was rather uncharacteristic for a man who in life was anything but quiet. A celebration of his life is being held for the community to say goodbye.
In the history books, Neville will be the man credited with leading the amalgamation of the old City of Mission and the District of Mission. In 1967, he was elected reeve after waging a campaign over lack of an adequate water supply for over half of Mission’s residents.
A couple of years later during his second term as reeve, Neville’s next vision for modernization —the unification of the two communities — proved a popular one. Reeve Cox became Mayor Cox, and the new District of Mission was born. Sidewalks, curbs and mercury street lights went up in neglected areas and residents were finally allowed a direct say in local affairs thanks to a much-touted bid to move council meetings to the evenings.
Neville’s legacy is a living one. He was instrumental in the building of the Mission Bridge over the Fraser River. He opened Mission Memorial Hospital while serving as the facility’s administrator in 1965. It was that job which brought him to the Fraser Valley and he did it for 23 years. He loved Christmas Day at the hospital where he and the doctors and nurses would dress up and deliver gifts to the in-patients and serve them turkey dinner. He did this before joining his own family festivities, as to him, the hospital was his extended family.
Anyway, it’s his Remembrance Day speeches which Neville will probably be best remembered for. He’d have liked that. If you attended any of Mission’s Nov. 11 services in the past 35 years, it was Neville giving the address. He was proud to have served as a chief petty officer in HM Royal Navy in the Second World War. He would vividly recall the carnage of blitz bombings near his boyhood home in Chislehurst High Street, near London, England. The Royal Canadian Legion was unable to confirm whether 35 years is a record of any kind, but I’m partial to thinking it is.
Neville also loved to write, particularly his Just Between Us column in The Mission City Record which recounted conversations with many of Mission’s greatest pioneers. That column was centred around his notion that “there is humour to be found in almost everything if we only look — and a smile can work wonders on even the dullest day.”
I just think of that and it keeps the tears away. I’ll always cherish what my grandfather taught me. You see, you can do anything. All it takes is a bit of hard work, a dash of panache, and for God’s sake don’t forget to make as many friends as possible along the way.
It is in this spirit, that I would like extend a warm welcome on behalf of my family to attend Neville’s celebration of life on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 1 p.m. at Mission’s Clarke Theatre. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Royal Canadian Legion Branch 57 or Salvation Army Harbour Light Feed the Homeless. I hope to see you there.
– Sarah Toom is Neville Cox’s granddaughter, and a journalist with BBC Scotland.