UPDATED AT 3:03 P.M.
Here is the story I filed for Wednesday’s newspaper:
Ted Cox, known by many as the “Mayor of Camp Muir,” died Sunday.
Cox, 70, became ill after a month of working at Mount Rainier National Park in late May. By late June the cancer had been diagnosed and treatment was under way, said Stefan Lofgren, mountaineering district ranger.
Cox worked the last 10 summers in charge of maintenance at camp Muir, at 10,188 feet on Mount Rainier.
“Ted was truly a unique spirit and institution on the mountain,” said Mike Gauthier, the former head of Mount Rainier National Park’s climbing ranger program. “He will be sorely missed by anyone who visited Camp Muir.”
While he had many responsibilities, Cox is best known among the climbing community as the man who emptied the camp toilets.
“Ted’s career at Mount Rainier was defined by meticulously taking care of the waste and water systems for Camp Muir, arguably one of the world’s most difficult utility systems to maintain,” said Chuck Young, chief ranger at the park. “He did so with pride, dedication and joy.”
Each week in the late spring and summer, Cox would hike to the camp where we would reside for four days. Each trip, he would pack and haul heavy loads of supplies and materials. Cox would also take a sled, Gauthier recalled, so he could slide down the mountain at the end of his work week.
That mix of commitment and whimsy is what made Cox so special, Gauthier said.
“He sort of tickled your spirit when you met him. He was funny, disarming, charming. You always felt Ted was on your team and was a true friend,” Gauthier said.
The two met in 1989 when a then 19-year-old Gauthier took a job at Olympic National Park.
“His heart was in the Olympic Mountains. He loved to hike there. He would do these epic hikes, 60-70 miles in a day,” Gauthier said of Cox.
“He introduce me to that extreme athleticism. It was an impetus to really push myself. He was father figure to me and a mentor as I pursued a lifetime in the mountains.”
Cox’s death is the latest emotional blow to the park staff. He is the fourth park employee to die this year.
Douglas Chappell, 40, died July 29 in a single-car accident on state Route 7. He was an engineering equipment operator who worked for five years on the road crew plowing roads to Paradise.
Climbing ranger Nick Hall, 33, died on June 21 as helped rescue four climbers. Hall had been with the park for four seasons.
On Jan. 1, law enforcement ranger Margaret Anderson, 34, was shot and killed by a man who was a suspect in a Seattle shooting after he drove through a snow chain checkpoint.
A memorial service for Cox is being planned.