PN editor remembers Joe Fox
By Tom Fjerstad
I remember sitting at my desk in an apartment in Minnetonka, Minn., in July 1992, amending a set of bylaws from the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Iowa Chapter. I was altering them to fit the needs of a group of veterans in Minnesota who were taking the steps to form PVA’s newest chapter.
I came to a section of the bylaws called “Rules of Procedure” that referred to this thing called Robert’s Rules of Order.
Properly referred to as a “parliamentary authority,” Robert’s Rules of Order is used by organizations like ours to provide a set of rules by which to govern many of the things we do.
I may have heard of it once or twice at that point in time but had no real idea what it was about.
Fast-forward eight years, and I found myself being elected as one of PVA’s national vice presidents. This occurred at the same time a man named Joe Fox was being elected to his first term as the organization’s national president.
I knew Joe from my time serving on PVA’s national Board of Directors during the previous eight years and through participation in trapshooting, something that was incredibly special to Joe. However, I didn’t really know Joe. That was all about to change.
At the same time I was elected vice president, another vice president, Jim Peters, lost his seat on our executive committee. He’d served as PVA’s parliamentarian for many years, and one of the first orders of business for newly elected President Fox was to fill that void.
Here I was about to find myself engulfed in Robert’s Rules of Order to a degree I never imagined.
Joe promptly arranged for basic training in this obscure discipline for a few of us in his immediate circle. I have often been accused of being an “all or nothing” kind of a person, and with President Fox’s support, I found myself “all in,” acquiring numerous credentials in parliamentary law.
Why is this important?
I recently asked Joe what he thought would be viewed as his legacy from his time as president of the organization.
“Unfortunately, it’s not something joyful but something that had to be done,” he said.
Then, at the same time, we both said, “The separation with EPVA (Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association).”
That was a very tumultuous time for the organization. I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with President Fox during national meetings, navigating some intense and stressful issues while serving as his parliamentarian and providing guidance on all things rules-related.
By this time, I had become a professional registered parliamentarian, one of approximately 200 in the country. That wouldn’t have happened without Joe’s support and encouragement. He always accused me of having a sick mind to even embark down such a path. I spent six years on the PVA Executive Committee with Joe.
The issues we faced during that time required and nurtured a special bond between all involved. We often joked that we brought the organization out from under “Peter’s Rules” and back to “Robert’s Rules,” ensuring that all the decisions we made were done so in a fair manner.
Years have passed since then, but a continued close relationship with Joe endured. I would often seek his advice or simply pick his brain about the “hows and whys” of our shared love of all things PVA.
This past January, I spent some time with Joe in Long Beach, Calif., at the Department of Veterans Affairs Long Beach Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center going through some long-forgotten archives belonging to PVA’s California Chapter. It was a time of laughter and reflection as we dug through boxes upon boxes of
I recall teasing him when we found photos from the 1980s before his hair was gray, but still not a hair was out of place. I also remember
our shared astonishment when we came across items of great historical significance to our organization. This was one of many great memories I have of Joe. I could write pages upon pages recounting the stories told and the times experienced with a man who truly dedicated his life to helping others.
Joseph L. Fox Sr., left us June 2. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and countless friends.
Godspeed, my friend.