Past Regional Grand Knight Joseph Fox passed away on 19th August after a long illness. In addition to his role in the Transvaal/Gauteng Region, Brother Joe served on many Supreme Committees and initiatives of the Order. Perhaps most notable was his membership of the Ritual Committee where he was a stickler for doing things correctly. This was evidenced when he acted as Supreme or Regional Chancellor at Conventions, where everything was carried out with order and decorum. Brother Joe lived on the West Rand and joined the Order in Cl14 in 1978, holding many offices in the Council and rising to the Rank of RGK Transvaal.
Requiem Mass was celebrated at Bryanston by Fr Keith Gordon-Davis who paid tribute to all that Joseph had done at St John’s Florida Parish where he was formerly Parish Priest. Moving eulogies were given by his children Michael and Margaret and granddaughter Rachel, as well as by Cl 14 GK Jayson Francis during the Valedictory Service conducted by the Knights. Their tributes are published below.
A Tribute to Late PRGK Joe Fox
by GK Jayson Francis Cl14
It is with great honour and a privilege that I am able to stand up here and say a few words on behalf of the Knights of da Gama and as GK of Council 14 to our Br PRGK Joseph Fox, a Brother for whom we need no reminder of the relentless and tireless work he was involved in with the Knights of da Gama. I bring apologies from our SK Rob van der Walt who is away for a meeting in Welkom, and from Board Members and RGK Archie Thema.
Past Regional Grand Knight Joseph Fox was initiated into St Francis of Assisi, Cl No. 14, Florida on 13th November 1978 (41 years ago). During his membership as a Brother Knight of the Catholic Order of the Knights of da Gama he served his Council as Secretary from 1981 to 1983 and 2000 to 2003 (five terms); as Deputy Grand Knight from 1983 to 1985 (two terms); as Grand Knight from 1985 to 1986 (one term); and as Additional Delegate from 1986 to 1987 (one term).
He took on the Office of Regional Grand Knight in 1987 until 1989. He was on the Board of Management of Alan Woodrow Park for some time, as well as a member of the KDG Ritual Committee and Right to Live Committee. PRGK Joseph Fox also took part in a number of Regional and Supreme Conventions as Chancellor in control of proceedings. He was presented with the Award of Merit on 5th September 1992.
I received a message from Br David Kearns, from his wife Virginia who wrote, “Many years ago as a young Knight’s wife, Joe Fox called me to ask if I could assist with an event, and having a young family I was ready to burst into tears. I said to Joe, how could I be asked to do things when my life was so busy with children and he calmly replied, ‘My dear, charity begins at home and your family is your calling right now’. I have never forgotten his words and I have passed it on to many young moms I have encountered.”I am sure we all have many fond memories of Br Joe. I joined the Knights about ten years ago together with a close friend; and we thought we knew how to make a coal fire and to braai – boy were we wrong! Spending our Saturdays selling boerie rolls with Br Joe, we quickly learnt the correct way to check the temperature of the coal fire, to ensure it was right to braai; and how to braai a perfect boerewors, without blemish. In my career I have to be meticulous in what I do to get the right results. Br Joe taught me how to be dedicated, respectful and meticulous in all the small things I do, and it’s those precious moments in our lives that live with us forever.
I bid you farewell Br PRGK Joseph Fox. The Knights of da Gama not only lose a distinguished gentleman but a pioneer for the Knights, and all we can do is keep doing it right the way you taught us to be.
Joseph Fox, the man of many hats
Michael Fox and Margaret Drummond
Dad was born in Salford, Manchester in 1933 to Harry and Hilda Fox, the sole reason that he was a Manchester United supporter all of his life.
Dad was many things to many people but the one thing everybody will remember about Dad was that he never left home without a jacket and tie unless he was on the football field or the tennis court. There were occasions that he would referee in a dress on a Saturday afternoon for the dads v mums annual football game. When asked why he always wore a jacket, he said it was so that he could carry all of his bits and pieces around instead of a handbag.
As you will all probably remember Dad was the man of many hats which he juggled with expert precision, from being a devoted family man to all the committees that he worked on. Dad was so organised with his two diaries (both of which were 18 months long), so that his beloved Sally had a copy and knew what time to have the dinner ready for the family be it 5pm or later in the evening.
We would like to take a few minutes to regale you with some anecdotal stories from Dad’s life.
Dad and his brother Bernard were altar servers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Salford for many years. The brothers used to play tennis in Salford. Our cousin Clare, who was Dad’s goddaughter, asked Uncle Bernard who won and he replied “Who do you think?” Dad continued to play tennis for many years and we have fond memories of him playing on the courts at La Salle on a Saturday afternoon with Arthur Austin.
Martin and Clare remember Dad and Uncle Bernard racing Martin’s Scalextric set one Christmas eve. so much so that the brushes were worn to nothingness and Aunty Ann made them get replacement parts (and a new car). They also recall Dad helping Uncle Bernard build a new garage at their house in Boat Lane, goodness knows whether it stood the test of time. as Dad wasn’t known to be much of a handyman.
Martin and David remember Dad’s minivan. David remembers Dad driving his minivan like a nutter on the roads round Knott End and Martin remembers the uncomfortable back seat and the poor sense of direction when first visiting Willis Road.
Dad and Uncle Bernard were fortunate to travel to Rome for Holy Year in 1950. Coca-Cola and Toblerone were a new thing as they were not widely available in the UK. Apparently Uncle Bernard bought a giant Toblerone to bring home but it was lost on the journey, perhaps in Dad’s tummy?
Dad was in the Scouts and continued to help with the scouting movement for many years. On Boxing Day of 1957, a good Scout Master friend of Dad’s introduced him to a young lady Cub Master, Sally Leather. It was after many years of courting that they married in Saint Peter and Paul on the 10th of September, which was also Mum’s birthday. Dad’s organisational skills shone through even then as he waited until 1966 so that it fell on a Saturday.
Martin and Clare remember well the flat that Dad lived in as it was very big. Clare recalls that she didn’t understand the concept of a flat and thought that the whole building was Uncle Joseph’s. Martin remembers the huge basement where you could easily get lost playing hide and seek.
Clare recalls Dad being very patient with her and allowing her to flick his long tie over his shoulder. He would place the tie back, only for her to do the same thing again. Wasn’t this just so typical of Dad when it came to his love for young children?
Clare also recalls coming to visit us at Knott End. We didn’t have a TV as Dad didn’t want us to be watching it all of the time. She and Martin recall our big garden and playing outside for ages. Margaret’s and my friend Lianne recalls the fabulous Easter egg hunts in the garden in Knott End!
Michael won most years. I think he might have had inside knowledge from Dad.
The other recollection was the newspapers stacked on the arm chair. When they asked, Dad had placed them there as he had not time to read them all. Some of those newspapers were even put in the crates that came to South Africa and I think it was only when Mum and Dad moved out of Eugene Street to Wilropark Retirement Village in 2002 that Mum was allowed to throw them away. We all remember those newspapers not only on the arm of the chair but eventually when the arm was full they ended up in a big pile next to the chair and Mum was only allowed to throw out the ones that had been placed neatly underneath!
Dad had a love for strawberries! The strawberry season in the UK was very short and he told the story of eating so many strawberries that his knuckles came out in a rash. And who can forget his darling Sally having to peel his grapes for him or the custard that she always had to make from scratch especially at Christmas time.
Dad worked for Kraft Food in Trafford Park and Martin recalls a family myth that Dad was involved in developing the famous – or infamous – Kraft cheese quarters. He certainly recalls sampling a never-released-to-the-public mixed-herb infused version on one of their visits.
Martin recalls a taller thinner man than his dad with a sharp sense of humour that he did not understand back then, a steadfast, upright man of his time.
When asking Uncle Bernard, Clare says he commented that Dad was very kind and that he holds a happy memory of his older brother.
Dad arrived in South Africa on the 15th of June 1976 to take up a job at SA Oil Mills in Randfontein. On the 17th of June, half of his friends and family wondered if it was wise to bring his young family to South Africa. The other half asked how he had managed to start a riot in just twenty four hours in a “foreign country”.
We followed Dad a few months later and started our schooling at St Catherine’s and La Salle College in 1977. Dad was very involved on the PTA committees and had numerous terms on both. Who can forget the disagreement with Sr Gonçalves re the building of the swimming pool at the Convent! Joan Swanepoel says that he was always a force to be reckoned with. She remembers every year before the St Catherine’s PTA AGM they would peep through the curtains to see if Dad (and Arthur Austin) were at the meeting. If Dad was there, they knew that they were in for a long evening.
Br Gabriel sends the thanks and appreciation of the De La Salle Brothers for the contribution Dad made to the Congregation and La Salle. He left a very large footprint at La Salle as he was associated with the College community over many years. When Br Gabriel moved to La Salle, Dad was very involved with soccer at the school which was a major sport at the time. Every Saturday morning during the soccer season Dad was present at School and available to referee a number of games over the course of the morning (sometimes 3 or 4). With the soccer players he placed great emphasis on sportsmanship and self-discipline.
We remember the one night of the week that Dad would rarely be at home being a Monday. Our telephone would ring off the hook with all the Catholic schools phoning in the football results from the previous Saturday and Mum, Margaret and I would end up taking down all the results. Dad was the fixture secretary and by doing this brought so much joy and pleasure to so many of us.
Dad was also a very active member of the Schools’ Fundraising Committee and served as Chairperson of Fete Committees over a number of years – always leading by example. He left nothing to chance and with his team contributed very significantly to the finances of the Schools.Fr Barney McAleer recalls first meeting the Fox family when he was teaching Sesotho at St Catherine’s. Many years later when Fr was Chaplain of the Knights of da Gama at La Rochelle, their paths crossed again. Fr Barney says that Dad was the personification of the true Knight of da Gama, embracing the spirituality and the vision of the Knights as a committed Catholic, witnessing to his faith in word and deed. Fr says that in the Knights to his mind no one knew the Rules, Constitution and Rituals of the Knights like Dad. When Dad spoke in his loud, forceful, confident manner, everyone nodded in agreement. Dad had a commanding presence and always enunciated clearly what he had to say.
Fr John Finlayson said that Dad lived his life for the Knights, he had a great respect for Dad and was privileged to enjoy his friendship.
Keeble McKenzie and Kees van Meygaarden’s memories of Dad are with all that he did for the St Vincent de Paul. Kees recalls how very thorough Dad was and how he did not like to part with money easily, being a stickler for making sure that help went to the correct people. We remember many evenings cleaning and wrapping Christmas presents for underprivileged children, and them not being for us!
Dad was known for his love for a good restaurant, a good bottle of red wine and good cognac, and he was even known to smoke the occasional cigar on Boxing Days at the Nicholsons’ whilst playing snooker, which he took very seriously.
Many people know of his love for books and those at the pharmacy and the bank will fondly remember him always having a book with him to read while waiting in queues. He was never one to waste a moment.
Dad made sure that Mum, Margaret and I learnt how to play bridge. Austin, Robert and Ursula, I am sure you will recall the many lovely Friday evenings playing bridge at the Heysters.
A highlight of Dad’s organisational skills came in 1995, when he was very involved in St John Paul II’s Papal visit to South Africa. The Mass at Gosforth Park was no easy feat and he gave it his all. I remember being left with Mum and Jackie Swanepoel to push Mum in a wheel chair across the race course track; some strong muscles were needed for sure.
Who can forget the many hours selling boerewors rolls outside the butchery and bacon rolls outside St John’s, Florida. Christina recalls Dad joking along with her boys when they’d come and buy from him. And if he saw them wearing their Manchester United items, that got him talking non-stop.
Many have recalled Dad as a legend at St John’s and his dedication for over 40 years. It was never too much to be there ahead of everyone else carrying the chairs from the hall to church and laying them out for the bigger masses, never mind his precisional directing of the parishioners to make sure that the pews were filled, and everyone had a seat.
In his later years Dad made many trips out to Middelburg and Elekwetini where he was on the board of St Josephs and St Benedict’s old age home.
Mum and Dad took pride in my marriage to Gavin in April of 2006. Gavin recalls a Sunday lunch out on our patio and how nervous he was to ask Dad for my hand in marriage. Well done Gavin for taking that leap. Dad was exceptionally fond of you and enjoyed many hours round the dinner table with us. He sure could not have asked for a better son-in-law.This was followed by the birth of Mum’s and Dad’s only grandchild, Rachel in 2008. Rachel, you gave your grandparents so many hours of joy and they were truly blessed by all your thoughtfulness for them. Rachel remembers her Grandad always having an answer for everything (and I am sure so do many of us). Dad taught her to build and construct forts and backed that up with the many Lego presents over the years. They loved making jellies together. Dad also used to have a tea party with Rachel with a proper cup and saucer and lovely biscuits every Wednesday when he visited. Dad, Gavin’s and my thanks go out to you for all that you did for the three of us, but especially for Rachel. We will always remind her of the memories as she grows up into a young adult.
Some may wonder about the significance of the prayer on the back of the prayer card. Dad always carried his Rosary ring in his pocket until his pockets wore through in his trousers in later years and it fell out!
I think the loveliest and funniest of the anecdotes that have been shared with us over the last week was Joan’s comment – “Our Lord has gained a new assistant manager; and how wonderful to think of Joe Fox of old telling St Peter that he is not doing things the right way!”Many of the other beautiful tributes and words that we have received have spoken about Dad as a principled man, with a wry side when one least expected it, his love for the English language and his yearning to always learn, an amazing man who was always very involved and reliable, the advice given on looking after one’s finances and retirement funding, the practical advice in difficult circumstances in people’s lives, a generous and charitable man
Our thanks go to Fr Keith and the Bryanston Catholic Church for all of their seamless help and support for today; to the Knights of da Gama for all of their guidance and assistance, with a special thanks to Ken Bland and Mel Antonie; and to Mel, Joan and Janice for the beautiful readings.
Thank you to all of you for attending, not only those present but those who have participated both near and far.
Today we say our final goodbye, a Catholic gentleman has gone home.