Ever the optimist, Kevin Cox has been working at Sound for 16 years in the same position as a receptionist and is now located at the new Tukwila office in South King County. His positive attitude gains him fans among both employees and clients. But many don’t know his story — about how he took care of his mother who was a nurse at the former Group Health before she succumbed to bipolar disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and diabetes.
When he was just 7 years old, Kevin moved with his mother, stepfather, and toddler sister to Seattle from Birmingham, AL.
“My mom was well-educated but sickness took over her life,” he said. Even as a child and into early adulthood, Kevin was forced to take care of his mother and his sister after his mother had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center for several weeks. He was only 14 at the time and said he and his 10-year-old sister were living alone but managed to go to school and feed themselves.
The stepfather, who was an alcoholic, was in and out of their lives. When his mother returned home, Kevin took over managing her life as well because of the effects of her medications, which caused her to sleep a lot.
“But she got help and went on public assistance,” he said. Then as he was graduating from high school, his grandmother came for a visit and saw how they were living. As a result, he went to stay with his grandmother in Alabama and attended the University of Alabama for 2 years.
When he returned to Seattle, his mother was even more ill. He moved her into Providence Mount St. Vincent, where he conveniently got a job and stayed for 12 years. He and his sister continued to manage their mother while she was there until she passed away in 2010. During that time, he received therapy and lived with two individuals (Greg and Leonard) he calls his uncles “who taught me how to be the man I am today.”
In 2002, his coworkers recommended he apply for a job with Sound at the Capitol Hill campus. Going to the interview, he recognized the building as the place they parked when he went with his mother to work at Group Health. He realized he had come full circle. “I understand the work at Sound because I have lived it,” he says. “After what I’ve been through, I can’t get mad, and I don’t let anything bother me. When I come to work, I’m happy, and I can stand back knowing I’m helping others.”
Eight years ago, his sister moved to Maryland, and he says she is doing well. They are close and talk by phone every Friday. “We support each other and talk about how we broke the mold from our family history.”
Before his mother died, Kevin’s life revealed another secret. When he was 40, he contacted his father in Detroit for his birth certificate and was told he was adopted as a baby. After a few years of searching, he found his birth family a little over a year ago. His birth mother wrote him a letter explaining what happened but did not want to go backwards in her life. During the discovery process, he also found out he has an older brother, who he says looks just like him. They share biological parents. Soon Kevin surprised his brother with a visit to Atlanta. “He was so happy to see me!” They celebrated their luck in finding each other and talk nearly every day.
Six years ago, Kevin married and lives with his husband David in Lynnwood. When Sound’s Capitol Hill office moved to Tukwila last year, he got a driver’s license so he could drive to work and celebrated his birthday by buying a car.
“When I was in high school, I was such a loner,” Kevin says. “I had a learning disability and knew I was gay. I was embarrassed by how we were living. But I enjoy my life so much now. I love being here at Sound; it supports me just by being there. I definitely love my job and hope I can stay here until I retire,” he emphasizes.
Anyone who meets Kevin is immediately touched by his warm, genuine smile and a kind word — despite the previous challenges he faced in his life.