Author Interview: Rick Coxen of The Great Promise (Part Four)

Previous Installments:
Book Review:  The Great Promise by Frederick G. and Frederick L. Coxen
Author Interview Part 1:  Rick Coxen
Author Interview Part 2:  Rick Coxen
Author Interview Part 3:  Rick Coxen

As discussed in my original review, World War I soldier Frederick G. Coxen kept a journal which ultimately fell into his grandson's hands.  Upon discovering it, Rick Coxen recognized its intrinsic value, edited and compiled it, and subsequently created the soon-to-be-released memoir, The Great Promise.  In the book, when discussing his journey into his grandfather's past, Rick has this to say:
     I've learned a great deal while writing this book, but the most significant lesson is the importance of people writing down their personal stories.  I used to believe that I didn't have [stories] to tell, or at least not important ones.  I have since discovered that this belief is false.  I now realize that our stories are created from the daily experiences of life.  We consider some to eventful, while most are not. Combined together over time, our stories take on patterns that define who we are and what we believe.
      . . . Through my research and exposure to my grandfather's journal, I've been inspired by the rewarding aspect of recorded stories, as well as the regret that can stem from unrecorded ones.  The pleasure of reading my grandfather's journal epitomizes the joy that can be derived from possessing such a family treasure.
      . . . My grandfather's journal is a prime example of the value of documenting events in one's life. It has been through his writing that I've gotten to know the man behind the stoic exterior, presenting me with a peek into his tender, loving side.  Reading his war experiences, has helped me define his true character.  For this, I'm eternally grateful.
   —Rick Coxen, The Great Promise
Several ancestors in my own family left behind them the records of notable lives and I have often considered fictionalizing their stories.  Mr. Coxen's experience with Captain Coxen's journal sparked our discussion about personal and family history and the importance they have gained in his own life.

Author Interview, Part Four:  About Personal and Family History

Penny: I couldn't agree with your more about the importance of personal and family history. How has your family (in addition to yourself) benefited from this labor of love?
Rick: My wife and children are proud that I took on this task and completed it, no doubt a life lesson for them.
   As far as other family members I’m not sure. The old English reserve tends to hide emotional outbursts. I know my sister appreciates the work I put into it. Other members of the family know that I’ve been writing a book but they don’t know much about it. We’ll see when it is in print.
Penny: In your search for the families of your grandfather's friends, has the family history (genealogical) bug bitten you? Have you researched deeper into your past?
Rick: Prior to the book I learned a great deal about the Coxen family tree. After my father pasted my brother received an inquiry from a man in England that was working on his family tree. He wanted to know if he was related to Frederick G Coxen. We contacted him and he supplied us with a family tree that dated back to the 1700s. It turned out that his mother was a Coxen and he was tracing back that side of his family.
   Later my son did a search on facebook on the Coxen name and came up with several, one of which was a woman whose husband’s grandfather is a Coxen and he also had a detailed family tree. One of them created a website with detailed information on the characters with the last name of Coxen. Look it up, it’s interesting.
Penny: What is the greatest personal benefit you have derived from this experience?
Rick: The first benefit was getting to know my grandfather. Next would be the pleasure I’ve gotten from meeting so many helpful people that were willing to go out of their way to help me along my journey.
Penny: Of all the character traits your grandfather demonstrated, what do you think the most significant to his progeny?
Rick: I would say his integrity. He was a man of his word and stood for what he believed in. If I used my father as an example, which is to say the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, then he was big on respecting others – especially adults. You would not talk back, and if you started a job you finished it.
Penny: How many descendants does he have at this point?
Rick:My grandparents had three children; the oldest was a daughter, then my father and then my uncle. My aunt had one son as did my uncle. I have an older sister and a younger brother. So my family is very similar to my grandfather’s. All totaled five grandchildren.
Penny: What kind of legacy did he leave you all?
Rick: The company he founded, Excelda Mfg. Co., is still in existence and is run by my sister’s son. This is the most meaningful legacy. I suppose another legacy is our rich English heritage, but this has come to light more as I delved into researching information for the book.
Penny: Have you had or sought the opportunity to retrace your grandfather's footsteps?
Rick: Yes. It is on my bucket list. One day when I can afford to do it I’ll hire one of the experts I got to know from one of the forums and have him show me the places written in the journal.

My special thanks to Mr. Coxen for all his patience with this interview. The Great Promise will be released soon, and I hope that you all will read this poignant memoir and unsettling reminder of the horrors of war. If we fail to understand our history, we are doomed to repeat it.

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