PVA President remembers Joe Fox
By David Zurfluh
“Joe Pa” was a nickname given to Joseph L. Fox Sr., from the newly injured young veterans he helped get into trapshooting for 30-plus years.
I was one of those veterans when I met Joe in 2004. And he helped me go from worst to competitive with encouragement and fatherly advice about shooting and life. Joe was a man who was stern on the surface but deep down believed in being fair and caring for Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) and others’ interests.
In 2005, at PVA’s Advocacy and Legislation Training Seminar in Washington, D.C., I saw Joe as PVA’s immediate past president, working the room and getting me to commit to future PVA trapshoots. After getting to know Joe a little better at PVA trapshoots, he encouraged me to get more involved in my chapter and to consider running for chapter leadership roles. He was the first person to see past my ability to ambulate and possibly be an effective leader at the PVA chapter level.
From 2006 to 2010 when I became more involved in chapter leadership and traveled to more PVA national events, Joe probed my thoughts on various issues and whatever was trending in PVA circles.
What really impressed me, though, was how Team Fox (Joe, and his wife, Hilda) would volunteer at the trapshoots and help execute the smallest details. They would greet everybody who volunteered there, register people, squad teams, gather scores, set up food, sell raffle tickets, pass out ammunition, watch personal effects, etc. Seeing Team Fox at a PVA shoot gave you assurance that it would run just fine.
In 2010, when I ran for the PVA Executive Committee (EC), Joe peppered me with, “What if?” and “What would you do?” questions for months to see if he would endorse me. Gratefully, I earned Joe’s endorsement, and fortunately after being elected, our friendship and camaraderie grew deeper.
From 2010 to 2014, Joe was a person I could trust to bounce ideas off and get honest answers with no repercussions, except a few colorful responses to what he thought were lame ideas. He was always willing to play devil’s advocate, and as our trust grew, he asked me to do the same for him.
My top four answers from Joe during our idea sessions were:
1) “That’s a dumb, damn idea. Better forget that one.”
2) “That’s OK, but it needs some work.”
3) “That idea’s OK, but will the board see it the same way?”
4) “I think you got something there. I can go with that.”
In 2014, Joe felt a strong need to serve PVA again. A young EC had been elected, and he saw a chance to help them gain perspective through his years of experience.
In 2017, Joe stepped down and entered retirement. But he again returned to help guide the PVA California Chapter’s new leadership through monitoring until he had to remove himself because of medical issues.
For the last three years, I talked to Joe every week about PVA and life until he was diagnosed with cancer. Joe was someone who would give it to me straight. And when he was president, he made similar decisions to events that paralleled my presidency.
He often told me, “You just have to gather the facts, look at the evidence and make the best decision for PVA.” Joe once told me, “Places change, technology changes, but the good, bad and ugly in people rarely do. It only shuffles and recycles from person to person over time.”
When Joe told me of his cancer, we cried together for two minutes. We talked every day until his passing. We talked about the effect the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was having on PVA, life issues and PVA history.
He told me his biggest regret was PVA’s Eastern Chapter leaving, but it was for the best at the time. I always tried to do three things with Joe on our last calls together — make him laugh, discuss a life event and tell him I love him.
For me, Joseph L. Fox Sr.’s legacy is simply that he cared. He cared about PVA, its chapters and its members, staff and partners. He also cared about everyone he met, his family and the love of his life, Hilda.