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A school in her honor

Posted: May 12, 2008 2:13 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2008 5:02 a.m.

A painting of Cox that hangs in the school's multi-purpose room.

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When a drought dried up the well at pioneer Sulphur Springs School in Sand Canyon in 1931, Leona Cox came to the aid of students by hauling five-gallon cans of water to the school in her Overland touring car.

At the time, Sulphur Springs School consisted of one room and had one teacher, Florence Mitchell. Cox also helped out by keeping the fires going in the winter months, caring for the grounds, and helping to discipline the boys and girls.

So when the Sulphur Spring School District needed a name for its newest school in 1963, a $500,000 project planned for the corner of Oakmore Street and Bernina Avenue in Canyon Country, of course they thought of Cox.

The 77-year-old was on hand at the groundbreaking on Aug. 1, 1963, lifting the first "official" shovel of dirt at the site with the help of Frank Collins, who was president of the Sulphur Springs School District board of trustees.

"The naming of this school is a small token of the esteem in which Leona H. Cox is held by the residents of the Sulphur Springs School District and its trustees," Collins said at a breakfast held for Cox before the groundbreaking.

According to Cox's daughter-in-law, Paula Cox, 82, Cox was thrilled to have a school named in her honor. Paula and Clem Cox, Leona Cox's son, were at the groundbreaking as were many of Cox's family members, including granddaughter Cathy Cox Kraeger, who is now a teacher at Canyon High School.

"She was honored beyond words," said Paula Cox. "As a young woman, [Leona Cox] went to work and didn't get an education to speak of, but she valued education."

Cox first came to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1922 and settled on a 40-acre ranch in Sand Canyon. Her husband, Clement Dunbar Cox, died in 1930 leaving Leona a widow with three young sons, Donald, Clement and Murray. The single mom raised her sons while helping out the teacher and students at the nearby one-room schoolhouse.

She was later elected to the school board, and when Cox retired to spend more time with her family, she was immediately appointed clerk of the board, a position she held for many years.

"She worked very hard for education and she did the most wonderful things because she really cared about the kids," Paula Cox said.

"Having a school named for her was the most wonderful thing that could have happened. That lady worked so hard for that school and for education."

After Leona Cox Elementary School opened, one of the Sulphur Springs School District board members would often pick Leona Cox up at the nursing home where she was living and take her to the school for special events. During holidays, Leona Cox students would visit their school's namesake in the nursing home.

"This was a great thing to have happened to her at the end of her life," Paula Cox said.

Leona Cox died in 1969, just before her 84th birthday.

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