Why We’re Here: Raymond Cox

Raymond (seated at right) with new family

Raymond Cox grew up in Southern Virginia. Raymond’s mother was not in the picture, so after his father died when he was young, he and his two siblings moved in with their aunt and uncle, Debbie and Dean Miller. The Millers welcomed and raised all three children as their own. The family now included Raymond who was the youngest, Hope the eldest, and Frank the middle child, along with the Millers’ own two children, Robert and Renee.

Raymond grew up with a love of playing and watching football. His favorite team was the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the highlights of his life was when he got to personally meet, Steelers’ star, Hines Ward.

Family on first day at ETSU dorm

At 21, Raymond was away at college, studying sports medicine at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) and set to graduate in December 2019. To help pay his way through college, he had a job delivering pizza. On March 5, 2019, he was on his way home from work, when traffic came to a crawl on the interstate for an accident that had occurred earlier in the evening. The busy crash site was already full of police officers and firefighters responding to the scene. Raymond was sitting in traffic when, with no warning, he was hit from behind by an impaired driver. The impact was so great that the emergency response personnel on the side of the road were plastered with shards of glass from the crash. Raymond was killed instantly.

The family was devastated. Debbie says Raymond lived his life by the rule: “Don’t let anything hold you back and you will achieve greatness.” Raymond dreamed of one day, owning his own office and starting a family. But that will never happen.

To honor Raymond and his family, ETSU graciously invited Raymond’s sister, Hope, to walk across the graduation stage and accept his degree early, in May 2019. It was with a heavy heart that she walked in his place, just a few short weeks after the crash, to receive the recognition her brother had worked so tirelessly to achieve.

Debbie says her family will never be the same. Raymond meant so much to all of them. When asked what she remembers most about the son she took in and lost, Debbie recalls Raymond’s smile and how warm and friendly it was. Raymond loved playing sports and working on vehicles, especially with Dean, or Dad #2, as Raymond lovingly called him. Dean is now rebuilding a car in honor of Raymond. Even Raymond’s dog, Daisy, still grieves his loss. Daisy will go into Raymond’s room and lay on the floor for hours at a time, just waiting for him to return.

There was not a lot recovered from Raymond’s vehicle, but a police officer brought Raymond’s Bible to Debbie after the crash. She cherishes knowing that his faith was strong and relies on her own faith to keep her going. It’s frustrating that this crash was 100% preventable. She struggles to understand how someone could choose to, not only put their own life at risk, but also to put everyone else’s life at risk on the road that fateful night.