VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The North Carolina native who founded and pastored New Hope Baptist Church in Virginia Beach for 60 years died Saturday morning at his home in Virginia Beach.

Dr. E. Ray Cox Sr., 82, was recovering from back surgery when he suffered cardiac arrest, according to his son Ervin Ray Cox Jr.

Information on Dr. Ervin Ray Cox Sr.’s funeral

Less than a month ago the city of Virginia Beach honored Cox Sr., who had faith that the resort city could put the past behind and make way for Pharrell Williams’ 2019 debut of the Something in the Water music festival.

Cox Sr., Dr. James Allen, now pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church, and other members of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference offered prayers on the eve of the 2019 festival.

For months, members of the conference implored the city to adopt a slate of activities for college-age students who have descended on the oceanfront for the troubled College Beach weekend.

“I believe right now, to this day, there would not have been a Something in the Water had it not been a Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference under the leadership of people like Dr. E. Ray Cox,” Allen said.

Allen, Minister Michael Keyes, special assistant to the pastor and the senior Cox’s son, Ervin Ray Cox Jr., met with 10 On Your Side three days after Cox’s death to share precious memories of the leader who earned a bachelor’s degree from Shaw Univesity, two master’s degrees from Virginia Union University and a doctorate of divinity in Lynchburg, according to Cox Jr.

“He was ecstatic; he was so proud of the city and so proud of the youth that day [SITW] that nothing [adverse] happened. The fact that they prayed and put the Lord ahead of the event, it meant the world to him to see the city actually do what they were supposed to do,” Cox Jr. said.

But what happened weeks later at the Municipal Center put Virginia Beach in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The pastor’s son, Ryan Keith Cox, was directing colleagues to safety when he was gunned down in an unexplained workplace attack that claimed 12 lives.

For his heroism, a post office near the crime scene was named for the pastor’s son.

The pastor of 60 years at New Hope Baptist church soldiered on by hosting vaccination clinics, back-to-school support services, and other activities for the community. The pain of losing his son would not dampen his commitment to the community.

“There was no hate for the shooter [at the municipal center],” Cox Jr. said. “We forgave him with all of our heart. Now dad and Keith are together; they are together again.”

Senator Warner praised the pastor for his work and dedication to the community. “Pastor Cox served the Virginia Beach community with compassion, humility, and a selflessness. Every member of the New Hope Baptist Church will miss their leader, and I will miss my friend.”