Longtime rancher and Big Horn County resident Merle E. Cox, 94, passed away Jan. 27, 2013. Merle was a quintessential cowboy and a beloved brother, uncle and friend to many. Born Aug. 2, 1919, to Montana homesteaders Jennie Griffith Cox and Perry Cox, Merle was the second child of six. An upbringing dominated by work — to get water, to get wood, to provide daily sustenance for his family — encouraged Merle’s independence and confidence. In 1935 the family moved to Lodge Grass to lease a farm, having given up on earning enough outside of Roy. Merle graduated from Lodge Grass High in 1937; his mother would later laugh that she encouraged basketball because it increased Merle’s chances of a diploma. After high school he worked out on ranches, tending cattle throughout the winter with only a horse to keep him company. He served in World War II as a technical sergeant, supervising 25 people in supplying ammunition from a base in England. Using his Army pay, he bought a ranch on Sarpy Creek east of Hardin along with his parents, where he lived as a lifelong bachelor until 1988 when his health induced retirement. He and his sister, Verna, made their home in Billings; upon her death he moved to St. John’s Lutheran home.
Known for his ability with horses, his love of ranch life and his support of his loved ones and friends, Merle played a central role as a brother, an uncle and a friend. He was especially close to three sisters, Arlene, Velma and Verna, and he was a mainstay to his nephew Tim Christie and his niece, Vickie Christie and their cousin, Kenny Cox. He was a go-to adult for support and love to his grand-niece Claire and nephew, Andrew. He loved to teach people woodworking and leather braiding.
His parents, his brothers Harley and Wayne, his sisters Verna and Velma and his grandnephew Nicholas Merle Battaglia predeceased him. To grieve he leaves his nephew Tim and his wife Kathleen and their son, Jeff, all of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, his niece Vickie Christie and her husband John Battaglia, and their children Claire and Andrew. He also leaves cousin Kenny Cox of Alaska and many nephews in Oklahoma.
Many people regarded this quiet cowboy as central to their lives. A celebration of life for family and friends will be held May 27.