• John McGary, Woodford Sun New Editor

Longtime volunteer honored by Midway U

On Thursday, Oct. 11, at Midway University, a woman who’s spent her life in Woodford County received the honor of a lifetime.

Lillie Cox, 80, was presented the school’s Community Spirit Award during the school’s annual Day For Midway event.

Ellen Gregory, the school’s vice president of marketing and communications, described Cox as “an individual that has given so much to our community, but has not expected any recognition or special thanks in return” while always being there when volunteers are called for.

With notes taken from what she called a “remarkable” six-page handwritten letter from Cox, Gregory told the audience in the Piper Dining Hall a bit about Cox’s life.

She was born in the old Woodford Memorial Hospital to tobacco farmers and lived on the old Pin Oak Farm (now the Oran Little UK Research Farm) until she was 4, when the Tilghman family moved to Versailles Road on what is now Castle Hill Winery. She went to Pisgah Grade School (now the Woodford County School District administrative offices) and graduated from the old Versailles High School in 1956. She married Benny Cox, a Millville native, shortly after graduation. He passed away in 2014, and their son, Marvin, died last December.

Cox wrote, “I am a proud Woodford Countian – all of it – Versailles, Midway, Millville, Pisgah, Mortonsville, Nonesuch, Woodburn, Milner, Falling Springs – our historic black communities – everything – its history, its people are my roots. I enjoy volunteering and supporting our community and believe everyone should get involved in our community.”

After 27 years with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, during which she developed and implemented the “Clean Air for KY” educational program, Gregory said Cox “retired for a few minutes in 2004” before taking a position as Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Woodford County Conservation District.

“After that, she says she and Benny got busy volunteering and supporting the community and asking questions of local officials of ways to improve Woodford County to make it an even better place to live, work and play,” Gregory told the audience.

“One of the biggest impacts she has had… is for the last 10 years, she has been the co-chair or chair of the Woodford County Volunteer Work Group and helped develop the Woodford County Pride of the Counties State Fair Exhibit… each year, promoting all the great things about Woodford County,” Gregory said.

Cox’s other volunteer efforts include helping the Salvation Army, Lion’s Club, Habitat for Humanity, Food Pantry for Woodford County, Jack Jouett House, Pisgah Historical Society, Midway Fall Festival, Francisco’s Farm Arts Fair, Horsey Hundred and many others.

“She is also active with her church, the Versailles Baptist Church, and the (Woodford County) Farmers’ Market. Whew, I’m worn out, not sure how she does it all,” Gregory said.

Gregory said Benny Cox’s Aunt Lillian had lived at what is now Midway University when it was the Kentucky Female Orphan School in the early 1900s, and their son Marvin was an actor and singer who performed in numerous shows held at the school’s Graves Amphitheater.

Gregory closed by reading from a passage near the end of Cox’s letter.

“My God comes first in my life. Then my family, my friends (so many), my neighbors and my volunteer work.” Ellen Gregory contributed greatly to this report.

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