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Powells, Coxes put differences aside for funeral of children

Published: Saturday, Feb. 11 2012 9:49 p.m. MST

Chuck Cox, right, and his daughter Denise Cox hug following a memorial for Charlie and Braden Powell at the Life Center Church in Tacoma, Washington, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

TACOMA, Wash. — A community and families celebrated the innocence, energy, and smiles of two young boys on Saturday with memorial services and a candlelight vigil that brought words of hope, love and remembrance.

"This is not easy, but this is a celebration of life," Tim Sloan, a longtime friend of Chuck and Judy Cox, said at a funeral service for the Coxes' two grandsons.

Charlie and Braden Powell were killed a week ago by their father, Josh Powell, who also died after dousing his house and sons with gasoline and then setting his house on fire.

For nearly 2½ years — since the disappearance of Josh's wife, Susan Cox Powell — the Cox and Powell families have been entangled in a bitter feud with finger-pointing on both sides.

Saturday, both families temporarily set aside their differences as they remembered Charlie, Braden and Susan. A large number of relatives from the Cox family, including Kirk and Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's sister from West Jordan, sat in front rows of the Life Center Church. About two dozen members of the Powell family, including Josh's other sister Alina and his mother, Terrica, sat in a balcony to avoid cameras and the main congregation.

There was no mention of Josh Powell during the memorial service in Tacoma, nor at a private service held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' South Hill Ward following the initial gathering.  Members of the Powell family, including Terrica Powell, also attended at the LDS church.

The bodies of both boys were placed in a single, adult-sized blue casket in accordance with the wishes of the Cox family, who did not want the boys to be apart.

A very solemn Chuck Cox, who wore a purple tie and blue ribbon (purple is the color that has come to represent the search for his daughter and to keep her in the public's mind) thanked police and the community at the end of the service for their support for the past 2½ years.

"It helps us be strong. It helps us to know there are good people in the world, good people to fight against evil," he said.

At the private service in South Hill, Cox again, in a soft voice, thanked the community as well as all the social workers.

"Everyone did everything they could for these children," he said. One sole person is responsible for this event. I don't think it could have been stopped."

Several references were made throughout both services, including by Chuck Cox, that the children were now with their mother, who went missing in West Valley City, Utah, in December 2009 and is presumed dead. Police identified her husband as a person of interest, but he was never charged in the still unsolved case.

At the LDS ceremony, ward member Bruce Gardner talked about God's plan of eternal salvation.

"Today our hearts grieve two young children. There are no words that can undo the tragic events of last Sunday," he said. "We believe (Susan) again will be able to raise her two young children."

The main auditorium of the Life Center Church, which holds about 1,800, was about three-quarters full for the service which was broadcast live on many TV stations and on the Internet. Blue ribbons were handed out to all of the people in attendance.

At the Tacoma service, Charlie's kindergarten teacher read the child's obituary and recalled memories. At the LDS ward-house, Charlie's first-grade teacher read the obituary and shared his memories.

Tammy Ougheon, Charlie's kindergarten teacher last year, recalled how he loved inventing, and bugs and often had to be stopped from taking a caterpillar or worm into class after recess.

"He was an amazing young man," she said. "He had an appreciation for nature I'd never seen before."

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