2009.08.25: Joe and Gay Fox served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Borneo in the early 1960s

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Joe and Gay Fox served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Borneo in the early 1960s

Joe and Gay Fox served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Borneo in the early 1960s

It was in Tehran that she met her husband, Joe. He worked in the U.S. Information Service. "We were just good friends for a while," she said, "and then one day I got a message from Joe that said, ‘Love you, you bum.'" They were married a year later. Fox remembers thinking that her husband looked like John Wayne. "He was a true Renaissance man," she said. "I was an old maid who had given up on meeting the right person. I married when I was 40 years old, and took on motherhood when I was 44." Joe and Gay were married at St. Margaret Mary's Catholic Church in Swannanoa, with a Presbyterian minister sharing in the service since Joe was Catholic and Gay was Presbyterian. Ruth Bell Graham was also in the wedding. Joe and Gay were married almost 30 years before he died in 1991. They lived for two years in Borneo, where Joe served in the Peace Corps. While there, they adopted their two daughters, who were later naturalized in the United States. Marguerite Gay Crawford and JoAnne Mary Fox changed their parents' lives forever. "We knew it was time to put down roots for our children's sake," Fox said. "We chose to come to Black Mountain in 1964, because my parents were living in Montreat and we knew that they would need us. Mother lived to be 90 years old, and daddy was 93 when he died."

Joe and Gay Fox served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Borneo in the early 1960s

A life of service

by Barbara Hootman , Staff Writer

published August 25, 2010 12:15 am

Caption: Gay and Joe Fox were married at St. Margaret Mary's Catholic Church, with a priest and Presbyterian minister serving. Ruth Bell Graham, a close friend of the bride, straightens Gay's train. credit: Photo provided by Gay Fox

Gay Currie Fox has spent her life serving her fellow man.

Most people know her through Gay Currie Fox Real Estate, but a life of work in foreign service came before her career in real estate.

She recently celebrated her 90th birthday at a party attended by more than 75 friends. Many traveled hundreds of miles to celebrate the event.

Fox was born in 1920, the oldest of six children, to missionary parents who arrived in China on July 24 the same year. They spent 35 years in China in an environment that often included nightly gunfire, and fled a warlord uprising.

"My parents, Ed and Gay Currie, were remarkable, courageous people," Fox said. "They were marvelous parents, and I had such a happy childhood. Even during the most severe Chinese political problems and uprisings, they paid individual attention to each of their children. We lived in Haichow, a 400-year-old walled compound, which provided us with some protection."

Fox was seven years old when she returned to the United States for the first time. She spent two years in Richmond before returning to China at age nine and didn't return to the United States again until 1938.

By then, she spoke Mandarin like a native, but English grammar was hard for her.

"I didn't know what American teenagers were like, or supposed to be like," she said. "I went to high school in Korea for two years, and then spent a year at Thomasville High in Richmond, and graduated in California. By the time I graduated I had gone to school in four countries and attended nine schools. For the first time, I felt like a minority. There are pros and cons for children of missionaries, who usually moved around a lot."

Fox grew up in the same vicinity of China and Korea that her lifelong friend, Ruth Bell Graham, did, and she went to school with her neighbor, John Wilson.

"I've known Gay since we attended the sixth grade together in Korea," Wilson said. "Her family fled China, and came to Korea for safety. She is a wonderful, caring person."

Fox graduated from Agnes Scott College in 1942, and from Columbia University in New York in 1946, with BA and RN degrees. She chose to be a public health nurse.

It was at Agnes Scott College that she discovered the power of politics, and that changes could be made through the political system.

"That knowledge and love of the Democratic Party has stayed with me throughout my adult life, and I knew I could make a difference in other people's lives," she said.

In 1957, Fox started her career in foreign service, working as a nurse in Tehran with Agency for International Development (AID). There, she developed an orphanage that became a demonstration model in 1959.
Marriage and Motherhood

It was in Tehran that she met her husband, Joe. He worked in the U.S. Information Service.

"We were just good friends for a while," she said, "and then one day I got a message from Joe that said, ‘Love you, you bum.'"

They were married a year later.

Fox remembers thinking that her husband looked like John Wayne.

"He was a true Renaissance man," she said. "I was an old maid who had given up on meeting the right person. I married when I was 40 years old, and took on motherhood when I was 44."

Joe and Gay were married at St. Margaret Mary's Catholic Church in Swannanoa, with a Presbyterian minister sharing in the service since Joe was Catholic and Gay was Presbyterian. Ruth Bell Graham was also in the wedding. Joe and Gay were married almost 30 years before he died in 1991.

They lived for two years in Borneo, where Joe served in the Peace Corps.

While there, they adopted their two daughters, who were later naturalized in the United States. Marguerite Gay Crawford and JoAnne Mary Fox changed their parents' lives forever.

"We knew it was time to put down roots for our children's sake," Fox said. "We chose to come to Black Mountain in 1964, because my parents were living in Montreat and we knew that they would need us. Mother lived to be 90 years old, and daddy was 93 when he died."
Black Mountain

Fox still lives in the 1927 Montgomery Ward pre-fabricated home she and Joe bought when they moved to Black Mountain.

"I wouldn't live any where else," she said. "This is home. Joe liked Black Mountain so much he wouldn't even go on a vacation."

Harry and Katharine Petrequin visited the Foxes in Black Mountain and wound up buying a home there. Harry and Joe served in Vietnam together.

"Gay is a loving, thoughtful, and considerate person," Harry said. "She is the greatest neighbor you could ever hope for. I am always amazed at what all she is involved in."

From 1981 to 1985, she served two terms on the Black Mountain Board of Aldermen with Carl Bartlett, Michael Begley, Charles King, and Douglas Stafford. Tom Sobol served as mayor.

"I made a lot of friends, and some enemies, but I would do it all again," Fox said. "While I served as alderman we worked hard and accomplished a lot. Some of our best achievements include getting a professional recreation department and a director, affirmative action, personnel policy, credit union, and we rescued Lake Tomahawk."

Bartlett, now mayor, said Fox's passion was infectious.

"I don't always agree with her, but she never got mad, and often looked at ways to change her view point," he said. "She was always concerned about getting a better quality of life for others. There is not a selfish bone in the woman's body."

Former alderman Mary Leonard White has worked with Fox since the mid-‘90s on issues such as the chaplaincy committee at the women's prison.

"She knows how to be kind and charitable in her personal life, and she also knows how to be kind and charitable in a bigger way," White said. "She is so much fun to be around, and always positive. She gets people to communicating, because they share respect and caring for Gay."

Monroe Gilmour met Fox in 1968 when his mother told him a friend needed help moving some beds.

"Gay was taking old-style metal bunk beds to a family out in North Fork Valley that needed them," Gilmour said. "Forty-three years later she is still in that same high gear. Moving fast, doing things to make life better for others.

"Gay has been a role model and mentor all these years. And at 90, she seems just the same to me as in 1968. ‘Come on, Monroe, we can make this happen.' And off she goes, bringing people together to, indeed, make whatever it is happen. Would every town could have a Gay Fox."

Fox was also instrumental in helping convert the old town hall building into the Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

"I live with faith, hope, and lots of charity every day," she said.

When asked how it feels to be 90 years old, the energetic, community-involved woman says, "Like it did to be 80, 70, and even 60. I eat right, and get lots of exercise, and stay involved."




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