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Pandemic projects: Carousel horse collector restores old mare Corona to new glory

Jan. 28, 2021 Updated Thu., Jan. 28, 2021 at 3:05 p.m.

Richard Cox is photographed with his restored carousel horse that he named Corona at his home in Nine Mile Falls, Wash., on Jan. 19, 2021. Cox purchased the polycarbonate horse from the Tri-Cities at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and got to work sanding, picking out eyes and an authentic horsehair tail, and by September 2020, Corona was right at home amongst the many carousel horse figurines in the Cox's entertainment room.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Richard Cox is photographed with his restored carousel horse that he named Corona at his home in Nine Mile Falls, Wash., on Jan. 19, 2021. Cox purchased the polycarbonate horse from the Tri-Cities at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and got to work sanding, picking out eyes and an authentic horsehair tail, and by September 2020, Corona was right at home amongst the many carousel horse figurines in the Cox's entertainment room. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Richard Cox’s pandemic project was spurred by a case of seller’s remorse.

A few years ago, he and his wife, Pat, thought they might downsize from their Nine Mile Falls home.

“I owned two full-size carousel horses,” he said, and considering a move, he decided to sell them.

One of the horses was a wooden replica of an iconic Looff Carrousel horse, and both ponies were painted by Betty Largent.

Largent was responsible for restoring and maintaining the horses and other antique wooden carvings on Spokane’s 1909 Looff Carrousel from 1991 to 2019, and is recognized as one of the foremost carousel restorationists in the world.

Almost as soon as the horses left his house, he regretted his decision to part with them.

Cox, a retired member of the electrical and robotics department at Spokane Community College, said his fascination with carousel horses began 40 years ago with a trip to Portland to visit his wife’s aunt.

“She had a friend who had a carved full-size carousel horse,” he recalled. “I fell in love with it. It was so beautiful.”

He decided to buy his wife a small horse from noted carousel artist and restorer Tobin Fraley, and thus an extensive collection was born.

A room in their home is filled with a series of small carousel horse figurines, and that room seemed bereft without the full-size steeds posed in midprance.

In late March with everything shutting down, Cox said, “I thought I’d better get something to do.”

So after an online search, he drove to Tri-Cities to pick up the battered carousel horse he’d purchased.

This time, instead of enlisting Largent, he decided to paint the horse himself.

But first came the sanding, lots of it.

“She was originally black,” said Cox. “The sanding got so tedious I hired someone to do it.”

Then the fun began.

Following Largent’s advice, he started with the eyes – purchasing a pair of beautiful golden eyes from a taxidermist shop.

He chose to give her a pale gray coat and bedecked her saddle with sparkling jewels. Her golden mane gleams and her tail is a genuine horse tail.

As Cox watched her come to life beneath his brushes, he knew what her name would be.

“Corona,” he said.

He found her name emblazed on a neon sign online, and also ordered a golden carousel pole to complete the mare’s authentic merry-go-round pose.

“I finished her the day before Labor Day, shortly after my 80th birthday,” said Cox.

He gazed at Corona.

“When I got done with this I said there’s no way I’d ever do that again.”

However, in November, with no end in sight to the pandemic, Cox pondered the coming months.

“Well, I’d better get another one,” he said.

His second full-size carousel horse sits in his shop, the laborious sanding process already begun.

When asked when he thinks this project will be completed, Cox chuckled. “Probably by my birthday in August,” he said.

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