"She had a heart for the lost people," her daughter said of Mrs. Cox's work with inmates. "She just felt like she wanted to go someplace where nobody else wanted to go."
Mrs. Cox believed, her daughter said, "that everybody could be forgiven, and she believed it so much that she wanted to take it into the prisons."
The Rev. David Ramsey, 81, retired pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Haddon Heights, said that he and Mrs. Cox had been volunteers with the Bridge Ministry in Delanco, which focused on prison work.
In 1987, when Bridge was about to move to the South, he and Mrs. Cox persuaded the Bridge leadership to let them continue.
"Irene and I said, 'We have about 100 volunteers and we're in about 20 state prisons and county jails, and we don't think this should just stop,' " he said.
So the two formed Jericho Ministries, choosing the name because, with ministering, "maybe the physical walls won't, but the spiritual walls will crumble."
He and Mrs. Cox recruited, trained, and supervised teams of volunteers who worked in prisons, mostly south of Trenton, at least once a week.
In the early 2000s, because "most of our volunteers were getting older," Ramsey said, "we were absorbed" into Saints Prison Ministry in Moorestown.
Until she broke a leg about five years ago, he said, Mrs. Cox visited prisons several times a week.
God, he said, "was leading us in this direction. Something we were supposed to do."
Besides her daughter, Mrs. Cox is survived by sons James R. Jr. and John; daughter Joanne Savidge; and four grandchildren.
Viewings were set from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, and 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the Mount Laurel Home for Funerals, 212 Ark Rd., before an 11 a.m. funeral service there.
Donations may be sent to St. Labre Indian School, 1000 Tongue River Rd., Ashland, Mont. 59003, or www.stlabre.org.
Condolences may be offered to the family at www.mountlaurelhome.com.