Earlier this month, Plymouth School shared the sad news of the passing of Penny Cox, one of the founders of the beloved play-based neighborhood preschool.
Dear Alumni and Parents,
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our dear, sweet Penny Cox, one of the founders of The Plymouth School. Penny was an amazing and strong woman, teacher, mentor, and visionary who will be missed by generations. Her loving spirit kept The Plymouth School thriving for over 40 years. We are saddened by this loss and promise to keep her spirit alive by continuing the traditions of the Plymouth School.
The Plymouth School
Cox was born Agnes Ducharme Robillard in 1932, her younger brother Danie Robillard told the Buzz. Looking back, he noted that was a big name for a very small baby. (And among the family she was actually called “Baby” until the age of five.)
In 1945, her family moved to the san Fernando Valley where her father became a building contractor.
“Agnes wanted no part of it, not the Valley not the lack of friends. She told me it might as well be the “MOON.” wrote Robillard to the Buzz. “She stayed with our older sister (LaDonna Marie Robillard Svetina) in the city until the end of the school year; at which time La Donna delivered the old Agnes now made over into a bright shiny new “PENNY.” A life changing transformation that I for one, thought was brilliant; but what could I possibly know, I was nine years old.”
“Penny and I were very close in the early 50s,” added Robillard. “She managed a Mexican Import shop at Farmers Market for nearly ten years. That was good for me, Penny made me Head Mexican Jumping bean salesman, after four Summers I was the “Jumping Bean King,” all made possible by that King-maker Penny Cox,” reminisced Robillard.
Robillard couldn’t remember exactly how Cox transitioned to education but noted that her sons and Plymouth School were her life’s passion.
Cox also worked at Bullock’s Wilshire, as did her son David. She studied Early Childhood Education classes at UCLA. In 1972, she founded Plymouth after working at another preschool on the westside, so she could teach the way she wanted, explained Fran Hentz, a current teacher at Plymouth whose son was in the first class at Plymouth. There were four teachers when the school opened, and Cox took on the role as director. Her approach was all about learning how to properly interact and share with the other children, learning how to be creative via art projects, good listening at story-time, and just having a lot of fun, explained Cox’s son David.
“There were no scholastic goals, other than maybe a good round of singing the alphabet,” David Cox told the Buzz.
“Our mom obviously loved children, they were all her extended family,” added Cox, who noted that his mom built Plymouth School into one of the top pre-schools in Los Angeles. “There was always a long waiting list, with the rule that you could not be on the waiting list before you were born!” said Cox.
After her retirement, five years ago, Cox enjoyed gardening, listening to opera and jazz, and not missing a single Dodger game on TV. She also enjoyed spending time with her six grandchildren, and traveling to Maui on vacation with her partner, Bob Block.
The family is organizing a memorial for Cox after the holidays. We will be delighted to share those details when they become available.