by Martha Michael
When Sand Canyon lost longtime resident Paula Cox, who died on July 31, 2019, there was a sadness felt by many members of the community, but the loss had an even wider impact. The history held by the Cox family serves as a marker in time, specifically to the earliest days of Canyon Country’s existence.
Paula Palmer Cox was the widow of Clement Cox, who died in 2014. The couple met in Sand Canyon as youngsters, and four generations of the Cox family have lived on the same property going back to the early 20th century.
Clem, as he was known, was the son of Leona and Clement Dunbar Cox, who moved onto 40 acres in Sand Canyon when the area was called “Saugus” in 1923. Leona Cox Community School in Canyon Country honors the name of Clem’s mother, who was widowed in 1930 at the start of The Depression and stayed in Sand Canyon to raise her three sons. The Cox family has lived on the same property for nearly 100 years.
Leona worked to improve the education her sons received at Sulphur Springs School, even hauling water and building fires to heat the room. She acted as librarian, secretary, custodian … and was praised for being an advocate for education in general.
Paula Palmer and her parents lived in Hollywood, but owned property adjacent to the Cox family’s lot in Canyon Country (at the time, called Saugus), where they would visit on weekends to ride horses. In 1944, Paul and Edith Palmer would make Canyon Country their home.
At the age of 13, Paula met her 15-year-old neighbor on the same piece of property where the couple would later establish their home as husband and wife.
Clem completed school at Sulphur Springs Community School and attended San Fernando High School, followed by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in agriculture. Only time away at college and serving in the South Pacific during WWII took Clem away from his Sand Canyon home. Upon returning, he became a teacher of floriculture at Van Nuys Junior High School in Sylmar, where he also taught math and agriculture.
Paula Palmer went to Hollywood High School and University of Southern California, the same college where their daughter, Cathy Kraeger, would later choose to attend.
On their property in Canyon Country the Cox family created a chicken ranch. Clem had a group of poultry ranchers that went by the moniker “The Dirty Dozen” and they met regularly to advise each other about their respective challenges. Clem’s ranch grew to include 30,000 chickens and more than half of those were laying hens.
Handy and mechanically inclined, Clem helped build a swimming pool on his Sand Canyon property in 1957. “I had the tractor and dug the hole,” he told Canyon Country Magazine in 2008. “I put the steel in and hired a gunite man to come in. Then I bricked it.”
Cathy Cox married Steve Kraeger and they raised their children on the large property as well. Before retiring, Cathy taught at Canyon High School, serving as head of the Spanish Department. Their children, Scott and Katie, were the fourth generation to reside on the family’s property.
In the late 1990s, Clem Cox opted to sell most of his acreage in Sand Canyon to Ted Robinson, a golf course owner and architect, who had been a part of more than 160 projects around the world. It was a joint venture between Ted and his son, Ted Robinson Jr., and opened in 2000. It is now called Sand Canyon Country Club.
Both Clem and Paula lived long lives and died the way they lived – at home, on the land where they met, surrounded by their loved ones.
“She had 92 very good years and turned 93 on June 26,” Cathy Cox Kraeger said. “We certainly miss her, as she was very much present in our everyday lives. It just takes time.”
Paula used to tell her grandchildren, “I live in the house that gives me hugs.” Canyon Country community members are grateful she chose to share those hugs with the rest of us. And now it’s time to pass them on.