If he can raise $80,000 in the next two years, 92-year-old Marion Cox should be able to erect a memorial to his ancestors near their Midvale homestead.
The Salt Lake County Council informed Cox on Tuesday that he could place a proposed monument on a parcel of county-owned land within the Family Center shopping center in Fort Union. The county also will try to clear up any legal issues involving easements, council members said, while the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Fort Union" rounds up contributions for a life-size memorial to his great-grandparents, early Mormon pioneers Jehu and Sarah Cox.
Cox was moved to tears by the council's action. For years, he has appeared regularly at council meetings, seeking assistance to make his memorial dream come true. Until Tuesday, council members had listened politely as Cox usually wearing a short, black stovepipe hat and a long, black overcoat provided updates on his activities and renewed his requests for land and aid. They then thanked him for his input and moved on.
At long last, Council Chairman Steve DeBry decided "it would be wise to bring it to a culmination." DeBry had council staff sit down with Cox and find out precisely what he needed so the council could determine if it was possible to fulfill his goal.
Cox asked for six things, including perpetual use of the land through a $1-a-year lease, help in clearing up easement issues with Salt Lake City over a culvert, $5,000 to launch fundraising and to start construction, a water connection, flags and annual allocations of Zoo, Arts and Parks tax money to cover maintenance costs.
While sympathetic to Cox's quest, council members made it clear they weren't going to give him any tax money. The county just doesn't use public funds on monuments to individuals, Councilman Randy Horiuchi pointed out.
"Take Miller Ballpark," Horiuchi said of the softball complex at 4300 S. 1300 East that was renamed in honor of the late softball pitcher, car dealer and Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller. "We named it and put a monument sign there, but no statue of Larry or a Chevrolet."
But the county's guarantee of a site for the statue should help Cox court contributors, Horiuchi said. "It will give you credibility with lenders."
Cox said he has set up a nonprofit group to raise funds, creating Jehu and Sarah Cox Memorial accounts at Wells Fargo bank and America First Credit Union.
If he secures enough money to build the memorial, which would be placed next to an existing replica of his ancestors' adobe home, he could dedicate it to the county as public art, said Councilman Jim Bradley.
"We accept public art all the time," he said. "This tells Marion, 'You can go raise the money, and you can tell [contributors] â¦ that it is our intent to allow a piece of public art to be placed on that spot.' "
That would make Cox a contented man about the time he turns 95. As he told The Salt Lake Tribune, the memorial "would be someplace where people could come and sit and enjoy the outdoors."
Jehu and Sarah Cox
Early Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley, the Coxes donated 10 acres of their 40-acre farm for construction of a midvalley "Union Fort" in 1849, when LDS Church leader Brigham Young asked that it be built to protect farmers from attacks by American Indians. No attacks occurred and the fort was never completed, but 92-year-old Marion Cox feels his great-grandparents should be "recognized for their generosity and the role they played in settling this area."