Gay Ellen Gayle Cox died in Dallas on Jan. 18, 2013, from complications of head and brain injury suffered in a freak accident. She was crushed by a falling tree while driving in Leon County on Oct. 10, 2012. Her full life was defined by her faith and her love of the Great State, its land, and its people.
Gay was born May 6, 1953, in Palestine, Texas.
She grew up on a working ranch abutting the Trinity River in Leon County. Her family moved to Palestine in 1967 where she graduated as valedictorian of the Palestine High School Class of 1970. She studied social work and psychology at Abilene Christian College, graduating summa cum laude in 1973. As a social worker with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, she recognized the critical role of the law in protecting children. Motivated by this experience, she completed her law degree in 1978 at SMU, where she served as managing editor of the Journal of Air Law and Commerce.
After law school, she joined the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office under Henry Wade. After a transition to private practice, she joined the firm of Raggio & Raggio, where she sharpened her focus on family law under the influence of her mentor Louise Raggio. Soon after the birth of her son, Zac, she ran unsuccessfully for a state district judgeship in 1986.
Gay grew skeptical of the role of litigation in resolving divorce, especially in matters involving children. Her search for alternative means to resolve conflict led her to become a champion of mediation and collaborative law, the fields in which she practiced for the rest of her life. She authored many papers and articles highlighting the promise of nonlitigious methods of resolving family disputes and was a frequent presenter and teacher on the subject. With like-minded colleagues, she helped implement collaborative principles into the work of Child Protective Services. She served as a lead trainer for many of the Dallas Dispute Mediation Services’ Family Mediation Trainings.
Gay also worked hard to advocate within the bar community for laws that would support and encourage the use of peaceful processes in family law. As a board member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, she pressed for and developed research to help inform the legal community of the values of collaborative techniques. She lobbied state legislatures to pass the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which was adopted in Texas in 2011. She was proud of her participation on the Legal and Mental Health Professional Protocol Committees of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
Gay lived her faith in every aspect of her life. She was active in church communities in both Dallas and Palestine. Her skills and passion for peacemaking extended into the life of the church, where she helped establish the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas’s Ministry of Conflict Transformation. This group of dedicated attorneys led a faith-based approach to help clergy and laity overcome conflict within parishes. Gay also was active in her churches’ international outreaches. She worked within her Diocesan communities to support missions to Uganda, India, and Honduras. In India and Uganda, she spoke to legal and faith communities about peaceful methods of conflict resolution. She traveled to Honduras with volunteers from St. Luke’s in Dallas and St. Philip’s in Palestine to provide support for a medical mission and the establishment of a church home and school in Siguatepeque.
Perhaps her most lasting contribution will stem from her tireless efforts to establish The Canterbury Episcopal School in DeSoto. Envisioning a school that embraced the high academic standards of the Episcopal school tradition while celebrating the diversity of human experience and faith, she helped the school grow from a dozen students in a church basement in 1992 to today’s K–12 institution on a wooded campus. The school’s excellence is evident in its graduates, whose numbers now include a Rhodes Scholar, a Fulbright Scholar, and a McDermott Scholar. Gay served on the school’s Board of Trustees as its President and perpetual enthusiast.
Gay traced her family’s history in Texas to Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. Her passion for the land of her youth drove her to explore ways to preserve her heritage. She dreamed of growing old as a “rancher woman,” and hungrily learned about ranch, pasture, forest, and wildlife management. She spent weekends walking in the woods with her husband, John, and exploring the flora and wildlife of the Trinity River bottom and East Texas. Her connection to the land was strong because of both her love of nature and her family’s deep history.
This love of family was Gay’s greatest joy. Her influence is apparent in her son, who manifests her peace-loving personality and followed her example into the law. Her hero was her father, William F. Gayle, from whom she took her love of the land and who preceded her in death.
Gay is survived by her husband of 40 years, John Cox; her son, Zac Cox; her mother, Betty Gayle; her sister, Mary Gayle Murray; her niece, Angelica Murray; her aunt, Wilma Wylie Wakefield; her mother-in-law, Louise Cox; her brother- and sister-in-law, Robert and Meredith Cox; her niece, Afton Cox; her sister-in-law, Melissa Cox Meglic; her niece, Jennifer Meglic; and many cousins.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church with the Rev. Ted Welty officiating. A reception will follow at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall. Burial will be at 3:15 p.m. at the Sweet Influences Family Cemetery located on Leon County Road 123 and Farm Road 811 in the community of Guy Store in Leon County.
Arrangements are under the direction of Herrington/Land of Memory Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that friends honor Gay with donations to one of her favorite causes: The Canterbury Episcopal School in DeSoto (http://www.thecanterburyschool.org/); the Austin Street & Genesis Shelters of Dallas (http://www.shelterdallas.org/); St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (Palestine) (http://www.stphilipepiscopalchurch.org/); St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Dallas) mission funds (http://www.stlukesdallas.org/adult-ministries/missions/); and the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/tx/dallas-fort-worth).
View online at www.herringtonfuneral.com.