Shirley T. Cox, 94, of Tucson, Arizona, and Garden City, Utah, passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 21, 2023, in Marysville, Washington, in the care and comfort of her daughter Janet E. Toy and Jan’s husband, David K. Toy.
Shirley is survived by her sisters, brother, children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren: sisters Evalyn Flint of Tucson, Arizona and Marilyn Edwards of Pocatello, Idaho; brother Hale Thornock (wife Ann) of Mililani, Hawaii; son Steven M. Cox (partner Tung K. Dinh), of Seattle, Washington; son Jeffrey L. Cox (wife, Karen, and son, Spencer T. of Port Orchard, Washington, and son Tyler W. (wife Sarah) of Wenatchee, Washington); and daughter, Janet E. Toy (husband, David K. Toy) of Marysville, Washington, and children Alex G. Witzel (partner Jennifer Braunersrither and daughter Chloe) of Park City, Utah, Annaliese W. Gardner (husband, Chet and children Elle, Trey, Aria and Tenley) of Farmington, Utah; and Elizabeth R. Dimmitt (partner Trece Wicklander-Bryant) of Marysville, Washington; and stepchildren Halden A. Toy (partner Peter Robles), and Kyle D. Toy, of Taylorsville, Utah and Daniel K. Toy (wife Lily and children Alec, Gabriel, and Natasha) of Murray, Utah.
Preceding Shirley in death were her father George Lorton “G. L.” Thornock; mother Eliza Evalyn Hale Thornock; husband Leo Cox; and sister Mary Elizabeth Thornock Christensen; and brothers in-law Franklin Flint, Bob Edwards and Max Christensen.
Shirley Mae Thornock was born Nov. 3, 1929 at McCammon, Idaho; the 1st of five children born to George Lorton and Eliza Evalyn Hale Thornock. She was first raised in Bloomington, Idaho where she attended 1st and 2nd grade at The Bloomington School and then Pocatello, Idaho where she attended Whittier Elementary School (S. 4th Ave), the original Bonneville Elementary School (E Clark Street), and the original Franklin Junior High School (N 8th Ave.); these three school buildings are now gone. She graduated from Pocatello High School (1947) and Idaho State College (1951).
Because of WWII, Pocatello High School released students an hour early each day so they could work. This allowed Shirley, in 9th grade, to begin working at Tommy Barrett’s Camera Shop. He was a well-known and respected photographer. Shirley continued to work for Tommy Barrett until her first child was born in 1951.
Shirley took voice lessons for many years from Rampton Barlow, who was one of the first graduates of the Adelaide Anderson School of Music in Pocatello. Her good friend, Wyla Nelson, was her piano accompanist when she sang, and they performed together on numerous occasions. Shirley also performed in a women’s sextet from the Eighteenth Ward called The Elderettes.
Leo Cox was an Army paratrooper and, in 1946, after serving as an M.P. in Japan during the occupation, he returned to Pocatello and courted Shirley. They loved to dance weekly to the Big Band sounds of the local 17-piece jazz band, The Bill Liday Orchestra, at dances held at the Pocatello 3rd Ward. Married in 1950, Leo and Shirley raised their three children in Pocatello; Bettendorf, Iowa; and Rock Springs, Wyoming. Leo and Shirley bonded so deeply they called themselves, “Shirleo”.
In 1956 Shirley began teaching a combined fifth and sixth grade class at Tyhee Elementary School. The following year she followed her principal and began teaching at Hawthorne Junior High School, where she taught until 1969, except for time-off during a pregnancy, during which she was asked to come back and teach a half-year at Alameda Junior High School. Shirley enjoyed playing bridge and was part of an organized group that met weekly in Pocatello and later in another group that met weekly during summers at Bear Lake. Shirley was an active church volunteer, including leading the young women’s Beehive class and leading the choir. Each Beehive girl chose a symbol for her life, and the bluebird was Shirley’s symbol. Shirley also taught sewing for the 4H group she led. She also worked for two summers as a chaperone for Indian Cultural Enrichment Tours.
In 1969 Shirley and Leo moved to Bettendorf, Iowa where Shirley taught at Mark Twain Elementary School. It was here that she was honored with an invitation to join Pilots Club, a volunteer service organization for business and professional women. She also was in a Bridge group that met regularly.
In 1972 Shirley and Leo moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming, where she taught at Reliance Elementary School. In 1974, Shirley was invited to join Alpha Delta Kappa, the honorary organization of women educators of which Shirley was a member for 50 years and where she also served as Epsilon Chapter Treasurer and President and Wyoming State Treasurer. In 1983 she began teaching at North Park Elementary School until she retired in 1991. After retiring she was the Young Author’s Chair for the whole school district.
Shirley and Leo worked hard and played hard, with a motto, “Hurry up and have fun!” They took great joy in camping, fishing, boating, water-skiing, snow skiing, and snowmobiling with their family. In retirement, Leo began a prolific woodworking hobby and business, Heirloom Oak, and Shirley kept the financial and inventory records and helped with booths at craft fairs and worked 2-3 days a week at the craft store. Following their retirements, Leo and Shirley split time between their Tucson and Garden City (Bear Lake), Utah residences.
A Celebration of Life for Shirley Mae Thornock Cox will begin on Saturday, July 13, 2024, 11:00 am at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel located at 65 S. Bear Lake Blvd, Garden City, UT 84028. The Celebration of Life will be followed by a hosted luncheon for all in the Ward Cultural Hall and then a graveside dedication at the Garden City Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers we suggest a donation, in remembrance of Shirley, be made to Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK), the honorary organization of women educators to which Shirley was a member for more than 50 years. ADK has a commitment to diversity and inclusion practices that respect and value each person for their unique qualities. Members support altruistic projects, grants and student scholarships with time and resources.
Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa
c/o Susan Magnuson
905 Valley St,
Rock Springs, WY 82901