Patty Cox had tears in her eyes when she spoke about her daughter Shelly Cox, a former student athlete at North Beach Junior Senior High School who embodied what a true Hyak should be — a force for good, brilliant, an impeccable athlete and a fine example for others.
“She was my best friend,” Patty said a little before Shelly’s No. 20 jersey came out of retirement to establish the school’s Shelly Cox True Grit Award.
The award will be given to a senior boy and a senior girl who “shine in the ways Shelly did, showing loyalty, kindness, determination, resilience and courage,” according to Wendy McCoy, North Beach’s vice principal and acting athletic director. The award will be given in the spring each year.
And for Shelly’s jersey, her niece Elka will wear it. Elka is a freshman guard for the girls basketball team.
The honor ceremony Friday night was to celebrate current North Beach Hyaks as well as to dedicate the night to Shelly, who died at 17 in a traffic accident in 1987. But before she died she left an imprint on her family, friends, classmates and her school.
“I think it’s wonderful they’re trying to get some kids involved, (kids) with integrity and respect, all the ones we don’t see a lot of times,” Patty said just before she turned to her son Eric Cox. “What do you think Eric?”
“They’re trying to bring about better actions from kids from leaders who have been in the school,” said Eric, who’s Elka’s dad and Shelly’s younger brother. “My sister was known for being one. She definitely was the best of the best when it came down to an individual, as a person. As an athlete she was very good. She beat the heck out of me as a kid. She was a great friend, a great daughter, a great sister.”
The jersey number wasn’t just the one Shelly wore. Eric explains what No. 20 means for the Cox family.
“It definitely makes me proud,” Eric said. “It was my dad’s number when he was in high school. And then I wore the number, my brother (Lance) wore the number and so did my sister, so it’s kind of the family lineage at the school.”
Throughout the gymnasium, which is where the Hyaks tipped off the season Friday night against the Elma Eagles, there are many signs of the Cox family. They’re all over the all-time leaderboards.
“Unfortunately, my oldest daughter Lorin and my middle daughter Malia didn’t get the opportunity because of honoring (Shelly’s) number for all those years,” Eric said. “But, it does make me smile that Elka is getting to wear it one last time, to see it on her back for the season.”
McCoy, who graduated as a Hyak in 2001, gave a speech during the ceremony about why the school was honoring Shelly.
“In my eyes, it is very obvious as to why we would honor her,” McCoy said. “It has become even more obvious to me as we have approached this evening with the many people who were impacted by Shelly having reached out to me to share their unique memories of her.”
Then McCoy listed the traits she’s heard Shelly was known for.
“She was kind and full of school spirit,” McCoy said. “She stood up for those in need and was a friend to all. She was tough and looked out for others. She was loyal and competitive. She loved art and was always smiling. She focused on her studies and wasn’t afraid to ask for help.”
It sounds as though Elka is a chip off the old block.
“Elka’s an amazing student,” McCoy said. “She is a very strong athlete and dedicated student. She is a good representation of what Hyaks have to bring. She’s only a freshman so there’s a lot of school ahead of her. She’s got a lot of accolades already because she’s been able to participate in things at a younger age, so there’s a lot of greatness to come.”
Paula Sasticum, who identified herself as Shelly’s best friend, said she and Shelly were “always together” and how they played on the volleyball team together. Sasticum then told a story that showed one of Shelly’s major qualities — patience.
“One time I remember that she was trying to teach me how to drive a stick-shift,” Sasticum said. “We were supposed to be on the bus for the volleyball game (in Moclips) and we drove to Pacific Beach. She told me ‘we couldn’t go back to Moclips High School until I drove us there,’ and we had like an hour. We ended up being 10 minutes late because I couldn’t get the car going. She was the most patient person too. She was just like, ‘keep trying, keep trying.’”
Sasticum spoke about how Shelly’s sudden loss affected the community, how she continues to respect her dear friend and how she misses her.
“It was a real loss for our community when she was in her accident,” Sasticum said. “But the community all came together and really supported Patty and Steve and Lance and Eric. It was just a blessing to know her. Even now, after all these years, my kids know who she was. I had pictures of her in the house when the kids were growing up and so if I talk about Shelly, they know exactly who I’m talking about. She just had that type of impact on people around her. She was kind to everybody she talked to. She was just an amazing person.”