Taking the advice of one of her former teachers who retired after 25 years, Penny Cox plans to be out of town when classes start on Sept. 15. “She warned me that that will be the hardest time,” said Cox, who founded the Plymouth School with four others in 1972. “But I’m going to be 82 soon, and it’s time,” said Cox. “It’s past time,” she laughed.
Cox recently stepped down as director after 42 years at the nursery school that originally opened in the United Methodist Church on Wilshire Blvd. and later moved to its current location in the Wilshire Presbyterian Church on Oxford Ave. She was feted by parents, current and former students and teachers at an end-of-the-year gathering in July at Harold Henry Park.
“You bet I’ll miss it,” said Cox. “The kids especially, and the parents, of course. We have wonderful parents, and every year you hate to see them leave, but then comes a wonderful new bunch. And the teachers, too, who are all very dear friends.”
Taking over for Cox is Megan Drynan, a former Plymouth student. Drynan’s one-time classmate, Maureen Gonzalez, is the school’s administrator.
“Penny was my favorite teacher,” said Gonzalez, whose oldest boy, now in kindergarten, graduated from Plymouth last spring; her younger son is in his final year. “I had such a wonderful time
there that there was never a doubt as to where I would send my boys. Penny has a certain magic about her that little kids pick up on. She really is special.”
Margaret Jacquemin, whose children also attend Plymouth, agrees. “Penny is the quintessential matriarch of the Plymouth School. Anyone who meets her instantly recognizes that this woman embraced her calling. She radiates as much youthfulness as her students, which is only matched by the experience of life that exudes from her warm eyes, her genuine words and her reassuring touch. Penny is as true as they come.”
“I’m so lucky,” said Cox. “I did something I really loved. It was the joy of my life to be there for 42 years.”
Now settling into retirement, Cox said her plans include “a lot of sitting and reading”—something she hasn’t had much time for in the past.
Leave it to a former student to put the idea of retirement into perspective for her. “This little boy about 10 years old came by to say goodbye, and he said, ‘so what are you going to do now, Penny?’ ‘You know, I don’t really know,’” I replied.
“Resting his chin in his hand, he looked at me and said, ‘you’re going to have the longest summer vacation ever.”
So far, so good. “Right now, I’m sitting on my deck overlooking the Griffith Park Observatory,” Cox told me during a recent phone call. “And it’s just gorgeous.”