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Carroll Fern Fox known for compassionate good works

September 20, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Carroll Fern Fox, who died Sept. 5 at the age of 100. Her obituary appeared in the Sept. 6 edition of The Herald-Mail.

When Carroll Fern Fox marked her 100th birthday in March, she celebrated at a party surrounded by family and friends.

She was very proud that she had reached 100, said her children, Ina Masters of Hagerstown and Chester E. Fox Jr. of Chambersburg, Pa.

Those who loved her were proud, too, but not just for the fact that she had lived a century. It was how she lived.

Throughout her life, Carroll was known for her compassionate good works.

"She was a very generous, caring person," Ina said. "She believed in helping others. She was not a materialistic person. The complete opposite was true. She gave of herself time and time again. It was who she was - and that's how I'll remember her."

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For 100 years, stories about her mother's life have become family lore, Ina said.

"She was a very interesting woman," Ina said. "Even the way she came into the world was interesting."

Not everyone can say they were born in a room above a saloon across from a railroad station. But that's how Carroll came into the world.

It was March 4, 1908, and Carroll's mother was en route to Minnesota from their home in Oklahoma. Along the way, she began to have labor pains and was taken off the train in Kansas City, Mo.

"The nearest place to give birth was above a saloon," Ina said. "My grandmother never talked about it very much because I think she was a bit embarrassed. But it became a popular family story."

Ina said the family had moved from Minnesota to Oklahoma because her grandfather had tired of the cold weather.

"He purchased land in Oklahoma, which until very recently, had been Indian territory," Chester said.

Nine years later, the family moved to Commerce, Texas, where Carroll graduated from high school and attended college.

One day, Ina said, her mother was walking down the street and saw a posted advertisement about available jobs in Washington, D.C., working for the 1930 census.

"It was a life-changing moment," Ina said. "She thought, 'Wow, this is something I'd like to do.'"

So Carroll showed a flair for the unconventional, caught a train on June 14, 1930, and headed to Washington.

Looking back, Ina said, her mother was a brave young woman - 22 years old - leaving a small town for the unknowns of a big city.

"I think it was kind of scary, but she did it," Ina said. Carroll even found a rooming house on her own after the YWCA that was recommended by her father was full.

While working in Washington, she met her husband, Chester E. Fox, who knew right away that she was the woman for him, Ina said. Her mother wasn't so sure.

Eventually, they began to date, and he proposed to her in a canoe on the Tidal Basin. They were married Dec. 27, 1931.

Ina said her parents stayed in Washington, D.C., until 1972, when they moved to Silver Spring, Md.

Her father worked for the government and her mother was a homemaker. Together, they raised two children.

"My father didn't want my mother to work, but she became very involved in community service," Chester Jr. recalled.

As members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ina said her mother was dedicated to her faith and began volunteering with the church's Community Service Center.

"She would wash, sew and hand out clothes to people in need," Ina said. "One year, she made more than 30 quilt tops. She thought it was important to help others."

Ina said at one time, her mother was the church treasurer and would count the money on Saturday night and take it to the bank on Monday in a shopping bag on a bus.

"That's unheard of today, but my mother never thought twice about it," she said.

Ina said her father died in 1993 and her mother lived alone until 1998. Although Carroll considered Hagerstown her permanent home, she divided her time between living with her daughter and son-in-law, Hal, in Hagerstown, and her son and daughter-in-law, Rosalie, in Chambersburg.

Carroll was healthy until the last few years of her life and was very alert, Ina said. She enjoyed traveling with a good friend and being surrounded by family and friends.

Ina and Chester said family was very important to their mother, including her three grandsons, Steven, Brandon and Jordan Fox, plus her many nieces and nephews.

"She was a remarkable woman with a generous nature," Ina said. "I think that's the way most people who knew her will remember her."

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