By Reggie Ellis
Modesty often gets in the way of one's worth to their community. It is a trait that most of Exeter's most valuable volunteers have in common as they selflessly promote the work of others when they are presented with praise.
But when you are spotlighted with two of Exeter's shining awards in the same year, it is hard to work behind the scenes. After being selected as the Exeter Chamber of Commerce's Woman of the Year and the Exeter Union High School Alumni Foundation's Alumna of the Year, Mary Kay (Slack) Cox still made the effort to deflect the praise.
"I don't like the spotlight," Cox said. "I am truly honored but there are many people who deserve the credit."
Mary Kay Slack graduated from EUHS in 1959. During her high school years she was active in the pep squad and served as an office assistant all four years. After attending College of the Sequoias she moved to Sacramento where she spent 12 years as a legal secretary and met her future husband Randy Cox.
Together they had three children -- Jenny, April and Jason. Since Randy served many years in the United States Air Force the family moved from base to base and country to country over the years. In 1980, while living in Nebraska, Mary Kay got "her creative juices flowing" when she began hand making mice ornaments for Christmas. Over the last 24 years she has perfected the artform into a profitable business venture known as Merry Mice. Now she creates the three-inch grey phelt mice for all seasons and they even have miniature accessories for each season, such as mice holding Easter eggs or bunnies, selling them for $16 to $18 at craft fairs in every city they lived.
"They have really evolved from what they started out as,"Cox said. "I wouldn't take credit today for the first ones."
More recently Mary Kay has taken up a new hobby, grandmothering. For the past 15 months her Merry Mice have been put on the shelf in favor of watching her 2-year-old granddaughter, Zoe, four days a week. Zoe is the daughter of Darrell and April Dodd. Her grandchildren, Jameson, 13, and Jordan, 7, are the sons of Ron and Jenny Schott.
"As the saying goes, If you knew how much fun grandchildren were you would have had them first," she said. "It is very different from raising children. You get all of the joy without any of the stress."
Children are very important to Mary Kay, evidenced by her commitment to helping raise money for the Alumni Foundation's scholarship as well as her dedication to creating a beautiful ambiance at the Starlight Ball, a fund-raiser for the Exeter Boys & Girls Club.
Cox will be recognized as the 2004 Alumna of the Year at the EUHS Alumni Foundation's annual dinner on Saturday, April 24. The cost of the dinner is $40 per person and $320 for a reserved table for eight, which is, in part, tax-deductible. The award dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a social hour and cash bar, followed by a sit-down dinner and program at 7:30 p.m.
"I have to give short speech. This is more stressful than putting on the event," said the event co-chair for the last three years.
Mary Kay reminds everyone that proceeds from this event will go to the Foundation's Scholarship Fund, established for the purpose of enabling deserving EUHS graduates to attend a junior college.
"Many people think you have to be an alumni to attend, but you don't," Mary Kay said. "With the cut backs at the state level and increased college fees these students need scholarships more than ever. I know, because our son Jason is getting ready to finish up at CSU Bakersfield."
Advance ticket purchase is required by mailing a check to the EUHS Alumni Foundation, P.O. Box 1035, Exeter, CA 93221 no later than April 19, 2004. Tickets may also be purchased from any of the Foundation's officers or directors. The officers include: President, Ed Zimmerman, '54; Vice President; Don Pinkham, '42; Secretary, Mary Beth LaMunyon Jones, '73; and Treasurer, Jerry Calvin, '57. Foundation directors include: Janet Atkinson Downs, '55; Josh Hadley, '69; Shirley Young Hickam, '45; Bill Spriggs, '66; and, Rowena Thompson Wirht, '44.