Saturday, February 24, 2024

Avenue of Heroes: Thomas Lester Cox

Prepared by: Gail Diane Babbs (granddaughter)

Every day for over 25 years, Thomas Lester Cox got up and put on the uniform of the United States Navy.

Thomas Cox was born on July 31, 1882, in New York City. Cox joined the U.S. Navy out of a sense of duty to his country, and to his family. Prior to his career as a Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate, he married May Miller, and was a devoted husband. Together, they raised three beautiful daughters, Dorothy, Esther, and Nancy – all of whom attended Coronado High School in the 1940’s. Cox instilled a love of country and loyalty to the flag in his family.

During his Naval career, he was stationed first in the Philippines and then transferred to Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado. While at North Island, Cox had a minimal daily commute, from 936 I Avenue to the base.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, airplanes were sent overseas regularly from the base to assist in the campaign. Chief Cox oversaw the planes’ maintenance and was responsible for testing the planes’ engines, fuel systems, propellers, and more. In doing so, he kept the war machine moving, the airplanes up in the air, and provided safety for the pilots and crew who flew the missions.

Thomas Cox followed through with his part in the war effort honorably and with incredible dedication. Cox’s daughters, Dorothy, Esther, and Nancy were active in school and known for their patriotism, spirit, energy, and zest for life. They all played a positive role in the lives of their fellow students during the war years.

Thomas Cox was proud of his daughters and eventually took equal pride in being called ‘Grandpa’ by his eight grandchildren: Gail, Loren, Kathy, Nancy, Tommie, Mattie, Tommy, and Jimmy. Cox was a shining example of the importance of giving back to the community, love of country, and service. Thomas Cox was not a POW, he didn’t receive the Medal of Honor, or a Distinguished Flying Cross. Instead, he humbly, quietly, and reverently spent a lifetime in the Navy. Thomas passed away February 10, 1955, at the age of 72. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

The Avenue of Heroes military service recognition program is sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 246 hometown heroes to date. On November 4, 2023, another 16 will be honored. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation.
In 2011, the program was inspired spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly and the local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. That moment made clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes.
That spontaneous beginning launched the program in May 2015 with 18 banners. The Avenue of Heroes is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to the country.

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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