BILLINGSS GAZETTE                                               Sunday, April 4, 2004


Cox, Karen Marie                   

   A pair of smiling eyes has closed for good. These eyes watched over her own children and hundreds of her students. Karen Marie Cox died in a tragic car accident on Thursday, April 1, 2004. She had worked as an elementary teacher in Billings schools for more than twenty years. Karen always had a smile for her loved ones, but those who knew her best will also remember "the look". She will always be remembered as a person full of energy and life.

   Karen Marie was born in Billings on April 15, 1950, to Jack Krueger and Elizabeth "Mary" Krueger. Her family lived on a ranch south of Columbus on Shane Creek. Karen attended Columbus High School, graduating in 1968. She then went to Eastern Montana College and graduated with a degree in history and secondary education in 1972.

   She married Philip Cox on June 24, 1972. They had two children, Andrea Marie and Jared Philip.

   Karen started her teaching career at Ponderosa Elementary as a teacher's aide and then went back for her elementary certification. She taught at Ponderosa and there met many good friends like Juline Kosmicki and Linda Bayne. This web of friendships grew and grew as she taught at Sandstone, Big Sky and Newman Elementary Schools.   

   Karen loved the outdoors, whether gardening, hiking, biking, skiing, or taking walks. As a child growing up on a ranch with three "rowdy" brothers, Karen learned to be tough. She delighted in rough-housing and competing with her brothers using "Krueger Rules". She was even known to crash Phil's brothers' weekends at Mystic Lake.

   As an adult, Karen insisted on bringing nature into her backyard. She talked Phil (or Fritz as she called him) into building a pond, an endeavor that sparked vigorous arguments. Karen also enjoyed introducing her students to nature through the cockroaches, frogs and lizards in her classroom.

   Karen's energy was contagious and unstoppable; she was a real pied piper. She could talk anybody into almost anything. Once she took a stand, she would see it through to the end. She was a fiery and energetic woman; her students learned quickly that she meant business. When students asked why they had to do something, Karen would respond with a laugh and a glare, "Because I can make your life miserable" She believed the biggest gift she could give her students was the ability to think. She believed an education was the key to any door.

   Karen was passionate about her work with the Teachers Association. She served on the Billings Education Association Rep Council and took seriously her opportunities to support her fellow teachers. In recent years, Karen participated in national training in effective teaching practices and then shared her expertise by teaching classes for her colleagues.

   Karen lived what she believed. She and Phil attended Good Shepherd since 1971 where she lead the fourth, fifth and sixth grade Sunday School opening. Church was a large part of her life, yet she showed her faith not only in church but in her whole life. She loved going to Good Shepherd and seeing her church family, watching the children grow up and having children of her own.

   Karen also was devoted to her family. She loved to have people to the house, even if there wasn't enough room for everyone. "They'll just stand," she would say. Karen always made the family take a group picture anytime they were gathered together, whether they wanted to or not. Her family extended beyond just the immediate relatives and included many close friends.

   Karen died doing what she loved: seeing the country, being with friends and working to improve education.

   She is survived by her husband of 31 years, Phil Cox; daughter, Andrea Cox Christen, (Nick) of Farmington, Minn., and son, Jared Cox, of Billings; parents, Mary and Jack Krueger, of Columbus; brothers, Jack Krueger (Kim) and Dave Krueger (Angela) both of Columbus, and Paul Krueger (Carol) of Miles City; in-laws, Sherry Zimmerman (Dwayne), Ron Folkerts (Janet), Dan Folkerts (Deb), Jan "A.J." Cline (Curt), Rick Folkerts (Tami) all of Billings, Gary Cox (Judy) of Ray, N. D. and Bob Cox (Cathy) of Austin, Texas; numerous nieces and nephews; great-nieces and nephews; multitudes of cousins; current and former students; fellow teachers and others involved in education throughout Billings and Montana; her special teaching buddy of 12 years, Charlie Bokum; long-time friends, Cynthia and Loren Gustafson of Helena; and her quilting buddies, Carol Blackwell and Kathy Kelker; Sunday School kids she has harassed, teased and whose names she always forgot; and all the many lives she has touched in ways we are yet to learn.

   A Celebration of Life service will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, at the Billings West High School Gymnasium. Cremation has taken place. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Karen Cox Scholarship Fund at the Teachers Credit Union, 1111 24th St. West, Billings,MT 59102.

   Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.   

   Published in the Billings Gazette on 4/4/2004.