s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

The spirit of Danny Cox burst to life Sunday through the people who gathered to remember him.

His favorite colors filled the stands at Petaluma High's track and football field as a sea of more than 1,000 people wearing yellow sun dresses, T-shirts, hats and flowers combined with black pants, stripes and sunglasses gathered to remember him.

His oddball humor peppered the memories his family shared from a sunflower-covered podium about the 19-year-old Petaluma High graduate, who was killed in a traffic crash a week ago, following a year of recovery and rehabilitation from a lake diving accident.

And his bounding energy burst through his father, who asked the crowd to walk in silence around the track where his son competed, while the father then ran through the crowd, against the grain.

"Danny's spirit was running through the crowd. It was the best feeling," said his father, Chris Cox.

But perhaps beyond all, his family and friends honored the strength Cox mustered when one year ago his trajectory as a star athlete and future firefighter was disrupted. Cox dove into shallow water at Lake Tahoe and suffered a catastrophic spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

"He is superman, a man who can," said his sister Sophia Cox, 22, reading from a poem she wrote after he was paralyzed.

Cox was killed Aug. 7 in a vehicle crash, almost exactly one year after he was paralyzed.

He was driving a Dodge Magnum reworked so that he could control the vehicle with his hands. He was killed when he crashed into an oak tree at about 5:45 p.m. near Olompali State Park off southbound Highway 101.

At Sunday's memorial, Cox's family remembered him as a a prankster with determination who loved his family above all else. The service was a gut-wrenching tribute to Cox that allowed his goofy humor to bubble through.

Emily Cox, 25, spoke of the close bond her brother had with their mother, Maureen McGowan. Through tears, she lovingly told her mother she was so sorry that she lost her son, "because I know he was your favorite," she said.

At the microphone, his siblings played their brother's childish, yet fail-proof, method of making people giggle: shout the name of a particular male body part.

After Sunday's 1 p.m. memorial at the track, family and friends gathered at the Mystic Theater on Petaluma Boulevard. The Fabulous Women of Petaluma provided trays of vegetables, salads, pasta, cookies and cupcakes. A video was to be played featuring family photos and footage from Cox's track competitions.

Katie Dunbar, 16, who has been Cox's girlfriend since April of 2010, helped Cox's 9-year-old brother pile a plate full of cookies at the theater.

Dunbar, in a bright yellow sun dress, said she first met Cox as he dangled from a school basketball hoop, shirtless and doing sit-ups in the air.

"He was just a really fun guy, he was spontaneous and a little crazy," she said.

Track coach Jim Lynch said he was really worried when a goofy and rowdy Cox joined the team but would over three years become blown away by the athlete's drive and depth.

"He'd smile and wink before races," Lynch said. "That was his way of saying, &‘I'm ready.'" Cox was also became a star long-jumper, leaping 21 feet and placing 11th in the state high school sectionals in Berkeley.

Cox's spontaneity appeared to bubble through all who gathered in his honor on Sunday. Two family friends, who did not know each other before the service, played an impromptu set of music together with their guitars.

Emily Cox walked onto the stage and sang a rendition of an Elvis Presley tune.

"I'll be so sad and blue crying over you," she sang.

Outside the theater, Cox's mother thanked friends for their support.

"My children are wonderful," Maureen McGowan said. "My son was so wonderful."