On July 16, 2013 Gerald (Jerry) Fox passed away at the age of 94. Many readers will remember him as a very capable Rockford teacher, coach and administrator, and also as a friend and as a positive contributor to our community and area. He was the principal of the high school when I began my teaching days in the fall of 1960. He was my boss who became a role model and a friend. He and his wife Lillian cared about people and welcomed my family to Rockford. As time went on I learned a lot about him and found that he was very active as a Rockford High School coach and athletic director. I thought that readers might like to know a bit more about that part of his life.
When Jerry Fox came to Rockford in the fall of 1943, he became the coach of three varsity sports. He was the head football mentor from 1943 to 1948. His 1944 team had a season record of six wins, zero losses and two ties. The team won the Grand Valley Conference championship. It was the first time we had ever won a football title in that conference. Perhaps even more impressive was that the 1944 football team was the first one in our history to go through the complete season without a loss. They did not win all of their games (two ties) but they did not lose any. After six years as the head coach, he coached the J.V. football team in 1949 and then was a varsity assistant for four years (1950-1953).
Coach Fox was the varsity basketball leader for three seasons. His 1943-44 squad was the first team in our basketball history to win a regional tournament when we defeated Montague 38-30 at Burton Junior High School in Grand Rapids. The team lost in the quarterfinals to Kalamazoo St. Augustine 40-29. After being the varsity coach for three campaigns, he kept in the program as the J.V. coach for five years.
Baseball was the third sport he headed as the varsity leader from 1944 to 1957. He helped win several Grand Valley titles and coached an undefeated squad (11-0) in 1948. During one stretch of games from the end of 1947 to the start of 1949 his teams won twenty one consecutive games. I am not sure if this is a Rockford record or not (do any readers know) but if it isn’t, it is still very impressive.
His coaching career ended when he became high school principal in the fall of 1957. He held that position for four years before becoming an administrator (business manager) in 1961. He retired from the school system in 1976.
During his coaching years, he also was our athletic director. In talking with him a few years ago he said that he liked reading my columns, and sometimes he would correspond by mail or phone about things (usually athletics) in Rockford. On several occasions we were at the same functions, and we had valuable discussions. One time he said “ We have something else in common. I used to write a column in the ROCKFORD REGISTER back in the 1950’s” I went back and read them and they are very informative.
Jerry Fox was inducted into the Rockford High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992. He was an honorable man whose versatility allowed him to influence correctly many areas of our community. He had a great smile and a “unique” voice that was easy to distinguish. He was a leader who impacted people’s lives. Rockford was very fortunate that he spent thirty four productive years here!
On Sunday, August 4, 2013 a memorial in his honor will be held at 1:00 P.M. at the Comstock Inn in Owosso, MI. Memorial Contributions in his name may be made to the Rockford Area Historical Society, P.O. Box781, Rockford, MI 49341.
To me, this is a special column that needed to appear now. I will continue with a normal column next week including the answers to the “Nugget” question about the statue of the veteran along with a new question.