ATHENS, Ohio — Remember me — the phrase still swirls in the minds of the Athens County community.
Noah Cox, a teen from Coolville, Ohio, died in a tractor accident May 31 of this year — remembered as a young man who lived life to the fullest.
The night before the accident, Jeff Cox and his son were artificially inseminating a cow and Noah had some older semen he was going to try.
“The straw he pulled that night was from a bull named ‘Remember Me.’”
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The Athens County community did remember Noah last week, as his best friend, Austin Pullins, showed Noah’s steer at the Athens County Fair.
They started the project together last August, said Pullins, and he intended to see it through. Shortly after the accident, Austin decided he would show Noah’s steer this year at the state and county fairs.
“This year, he [Noah] wanted more than ever to win at state fair. I felt like I should be the one to continue to work the steers and finish the project,” said Pullins.
The steer placed in its class at the state fair and won grand champion at the county fair, continuing Noah’s winning history — now with three grand champion and four reserve champion steers in Athens County.
Like brothers, the two teens worked together six to eight hours a day to prepare their steers for showing, said Jeff Cox. Noah and Austin, both only children, grew up just a couple miles from one another.
They started working cattle together, riding dirt bikes, going to truck pulls and spending most of their days side by side, Pullins said.
Noah, a 2016 Federal Hocking High graduate, also worked part-time for the family metal fabrication company.
“Noah was the type of kid that did everything with his whole heart,” said Calvin Jarvis, a family friend, fair board president and Noah’s 4-H adviser. “He was an excellent showman, but he didn’t let that get to his head.”
“Noah had been in my 4-H club since he was 9 years old. He was dedicated and wanted to learn everything,” Jarvis said. “At around 14, he became a vital part of the club — teaching and mentoring. You couldn’t ask for a better young man.”
Austin is the same type of kid, said Cox, always on the move and trying his best.
Noah’s and Austin’s steers both made it to the final drive at this year’s Athens County Fair. Austin showed Noah’s steer and another 4-H member showed Austin’s.
“I knew if that happened [both steers making the final drive], I was going to take his in. He was used to me and I wanted to be the one to see it to the end,” Austin said.
After the judge slapped Noah’s steer, announcing it grand champion, Austin relieved the 4-H member showing his steer.
Then, Austin’s steer was slapped, honoring it as reserve champion.
“I was an emotional wreck, I had no feelings, just emotional,” Pullins said about his reaction after the final drive.
As the crowd cheered, Jarvis, the fair board president, leaned over to the judge and said, “You probably realize something special is happening here.”
Jarvis then shared the story of the two remarkable young men.
“You could not have asked for a more perfect ending to the story,” said Jarvis.
But the story wasn’t over.
The purple shirt
Noah, who showed in the BEST Program through the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, loved to show cattle. Jeff and Stephanie Cox took their son all over the state and to towns in Virginia and West Virginia to show. Noah always wore a purple or pink shirt to be noticed by the judge.
Purple also represents the champion banner showmen chase.
The evening of the Athens County Fair sale, the arena was filled with purple T-shirts with the phrase “Remember me” on the back to honor Noah.
Another phrase on the shirt was taken from Jarvis, who performed the memorial service for Noah. He told the crowd to give it their all in the show ring of life — and the shirt reads “succeeding in the show ring of life.”
“The idea stuck. It hit home with a lot of kids there that day,” Cox said. “It reminds us all to live life, giving it all you got.”
To date, more than 800 purple shirts remembering Noah have been sold, benefiting the Noah Cox Memorial Fund. (To make a donation, see the related box.)
Before Noah’s steer entered the sale ring, eight to 10 businesses got together and decided they were going to buy the steer, said Jarvis. The steer sold for $26,000. After the sale, more individuals and businesses kicked in donations, and the fund now exceeds $76,000 and continues to grow.
The money will be used to build a beef grooming facility next to the beef barn on the county fairgrounds in honor of Noah.
“Words cannot explain the feeling of loss and unity the community feels,” said Jarvis. “This tragedy has changed the whole mood of the county.”
“The night of the accident, I promised him I’d finish the project,” said Cox about his only child.
“It is totally overwhelming. It has been that way since the accident,” Cox said.
“The auction was great, but ever since [the accident], the community has been supportive in so many different ways.”
The fair board hopes to have the beef grooming facility built to honor Noah by the 2018 fair.
Donations can be mailed to: The Noah Cox Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 159, Tuppers Plains, OH 45783.