Charles Edwin Cox
August 19, 1929 - November 17, 2012
Resident of Sunnyvale
Charles Edwin Cox was born to Elmer and Isabelle Cox in Wilburton, Oklahoma on August 19, 1929. Charles had a small beginning, but accomplished great things over the course of his lifetime. He was born in a one-room wooden house to an American oil worker and a daughter of Lithuanian immigrants raised in what was historically referred to as "Indian Territory" before Oklahoma became a state.
Charles grew up in rural Oklahoma and enlisted in the Army Air Force near the end of World War II at the young age of 16, (falsifying his age as 17 - with his mother's signature). While he did not see time in combat, he did serve as part of the occupation troops in Japan where he spent his time working on the mechanical gun turrets on bomber aircraft. The experience propelled his interest and career in aeronautical engineering. He was later honorably discharged in California, which allowed him to visit relatives, including a cousin in Bakersfield who was best friends with a woman named Charlene Self. Charles and Charlene immediately became inseparable. Charles found construction work in Bakersfield so he could remain close to Charlene. They married on January 26, 1950 and were married over 62 years before Charles passed away on November 17, 2012.
While in southern California, Charles enrolled in school at the Cal-Aero Technical Institute for aeronautical engineering while working nights at a full service gas station. After graduating, he worked at Douglas Air Craft as a flight test engineer. While at Douglas he was part of the team that developed the A4 Skyhawk combat airplane which flew in Vietnam and was later used by the Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron for many years. Charles then settled his family in Lancaster, California where he worked for Douglas at Edwards Air Force Base, home of "The Right Stuff" test pilots. While there, he was proud to say that he flew with Alan Shepard who would later become the first American astronaut to fly in space. In the early 1960s, the family moved to Sunnyvale, California, when Charles began work at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. He worked on a number of secret government projects, but his most publicly notable work was as the test and integration manager for construction of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. Charles dedicated over 12 years of his life to the construction of this scientific marvel which has allowed humankind to learn more about deep space than ever before. With the Hubble, we have been able to see images of constellations and individual stars light years into the past, dating even as far back as the Big Bang.
Upon retirement, Charles and Charlene traveled around the world together. Charles continued to inspire his children and grandchildren to excel in their education, careers, families and lives, well into his 80's. He leaves a lasting legacy of hard work, innovation, dedication and philanthropy. Charles made a global impact with his work in space aeronautics. Yet on a smaller scale, he will most fondly be remembered by his family by the impact he had on their lives. Charles showed great love, patience and compassion to his family. We know that we will see Charles in heaven as a result of his professed personal commitment to Jesus Christ in his final days. His legacy will live on in history, throughout the world and in the hearts of his family and friends. Charles Cox is survived by his wife, Charlene, sons Charles Daniel (Dan) and Brian Edwin, sister Elma Jo Manning, as well as many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Memorial services will be held at Valley Church in Cupertino on December 1 at 11:00 a.m. Instead of flowers or similar items, the family requests that donations be made to the California Department of Veterans Affairs at www.calvet.ca.gov.
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on November 23, 2012