By R. Stephanie Bruno
If you ever set foot inside of the CVS on Prytania Street or Zara’s across the way, you couldn’t help but notice Roechelle Cox. She was the ray of sunshine who welcomed you at both neighborhood spots for about three years, until July of this year. That was when her CVS manager made a trip to her apartment on Milan Street with the apartment manager because Cox hadn’t shown up at work. They found the 51 year old dead.
Cathy Powell, a CVS customer, first broke the news of Cox’s death to neighbors back in September.
“I’m posting this to let anyone whose life had been happily touched by Roechelle know about her passing. There was no obituary, and there will be no funeral or memorial service to my understanding,” Powell wrote on Nextdoor, a neighborhood message board. “For the last year or so, first thing I heard whenever I walked into CVS on Prytania was Roechelle saying, ‘Welcome to CVS!,’ and then seeing her kind and smiling face, with her lovely long braid.”
Powell didn’t expect it, but her post generated so great an outpouring of love and concern from neighbors that Cox will get the memorial she deserves Saturday, December 3, at 2 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4500 St. Charles Avenue. That’s because a community of strangers pulled together to ensure that her life would be celebrated with dignity.
Without family to claim her remains, Cox would have been buried in potters field come December. So concerned neighbors launched a GoFundMe page to pay for her cremation and service.
Leading the effort were Powell, Michael Tifft (the attorney who handled the case pro bono), Stephanie Easley, Stephanie Laborde, and Margaret McDaniel. None of them knew one another until they were united by a mission. One of them crafted the GoFundMe page, another circulated news of it online, and another searched for a photo.
The campaign worked. Donations ranged from a few dollars to several gifts of $200, including one from owners Steve Watson and Ben Sherman of the Kingpin, a popular business next door to Zara’s. When adequate funds were raised, Tifft filed the necessary paperwork with the courts to have Cox’s remains released to her friends.
Many of Cox’s admirers echoed the same sentiment: that her kindness and radiance managed to lift spirits and make people feel cared for.
All are welcome to join in the celebration of Cox’s life Saturday at St. George’s.
R. Stephanie Bruno is journalist who has written on architecture for The Times-Picayune and The New Orleans Advocate, and is author of “New Orleans Streets : A Walker’s Guide to Neighborhood Architecture.” She is a resident of Uptown New Orleans.