It’s rather doubtful that anyone ever described Mary Lee Cox as a “tall drink of water.” Rather, time and time again, the diminutive woman was recognized as a sparkling shot of energy. Mary Lee’s enthusiasm, determination and dedication for community involvement were well-known by grateful nonprofits, hardworking committee members and friends.
But that hadn’t been her original POA. Back when women in law school were rare, Mary Lee enrolled at SMU’s School of Law in the 1950s. That’s where she met her husband William D. Cox Jr., who would become a successful trial lawyer and president of the Dallas Bar Association. While Mary Lee didn’t pursue her legal career, she did end up having four kids (William D. Cox III, Joe Cox, Michele Cox and Therese Rourke) and becoming president of the Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary.
As if raising a family wasn’t enough, she threw herself into supporting her community for more than 50 years.
And, it didn’t go without attention by the recipients of her efforts. In 2013, Les Femmes du Monde recognized Mary Lee’s years of service during its 50th anniversary year by naming her Woman of the Year. Not only had she held almost every leadership position in Les Femmes since becoming a member in 1987, but the organization pointed out that “she has served as president of more such organizations than any other single Dallas volunteer, including the Women’s Board of the Dallas Opera, Friday Forum, Dallas Ballet Women’s Committee, Dallas Southern Memorial Association, Society for Abandoned and Neglected Children, Irish Georgian Society, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Women’s Division of the American Kidney Foundation, Highland Park Browning Club, Theresians of Dallas, Jesuit Women’s Auxiliary, Public Affairs Luncheon Club, and the Conservancy Founding Board of the Dallas Southern Memorial.”
As for events, she had chair/co-chaired The 2013 Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon, Dickens of a Christmas, Retina Foundation Racing for Sight, Genesis Mother Daughter Luncheon, Science Place Guild, the first benefit of Dallas Baptist University’s Women’s Board, Christ the King Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon, Old City Park’s Candlelight Dinners, Dallas Ballet’s Irish Fair and the Genesis Mother-Daughter Luncheon.
Still, all of this involvement doesn’t begin to describe Mary Lee’s personality. Her sense of humor was accompanied by a wicked twinkle in her eye and laugh. Photographer Dana Driensky recalled how she once told him how she loved the photos he took of her, “but my favorites are the ones by your son (Daniel Driensky).”
In recent years, she focused her attention especially on KidneyTexas Inc. Why, just last year, she served as its president. This past Wednesday, the organization’s Runway Report held its patron party, but Mary Lee wasn’t there. To the surprise and concern of guests, word passed through the room that Mary Lee was in the hospital. The next morning, ironically on North Texas Giving Day, to the shock of many the little 84-year-old community volunteer passed away.
Later that day, following T. Boone Pickens’ memorial service, fundraising event emcee Scott Murray shook his head in disbelief. He had just talked with her the week before about a future project.
Kathy Stewart perfectly described Mary Lee as “a ball of fire, igniting faith, hope and generosity to so many. Thank you for all you did to help me, encourage me and for all the things I never knew you did!”
A visitation and rosary service for Mary Lee will be held at Sparkman Hillcrest Northwest Highway Chapel on Friday, September 27, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A funeral mass for the little woman with the brown curls and the big heart will be at Christ the King on Saturday, September 28, at 10 a.m.