Keeping his memory alive

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 11, 2002

During a visit to Jackson in 1949, 19-year-old Wilma McDaniel met the love of her life.

"When I met him, he was just a flirtin' around," she said. "We exchanged addresses, but I didn't write to him. I saw him later and he asked me why I hadn't written him. We dated for a while and we married in 1951.

"I just fell in love. He was such a good person and he was just as sweet, kind and fun as anyone else."

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Her husband, Charles "Joby" Fox, became a quadriplegic at 19 after contracting meningitis in Japan during World War II. He was awarded the World War II Victory Medal and was discharged because of his disability. He met his wife three years later.

"I remember when he was in the hospital in Battle Creek, Mich.," Mrs. Fox said. "He weighed 75 pounds."

Fox also had to often wear an eye patch, but his wife did not feel any differently about him.

"His eye was the most beautiful thing you ever saw," she said. "He had this nice expression, a twinkle, in his one good eye."

However, his discharge did not end his service to his country, especially to veterans like himself.

Fox was one of 688 members of the Vaughn Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America in Chicago. During one of the chapter's meetings, he agreed to try and get a bill passed for special automobile license plates to be issued for disabled veterans in Ohio.

Being well acquainted with State Rep. Carlton Davidson, Fox contacted him in 1971. Davidson made many visits to the Fox residence to work with him on the project, which resulted in House Bill 136.

On July 1, Fox received a letter from then-Gov. John J. Gilligan regarding the bill, assuring him that if the bill was passed he would give it careful consideration. The bill was

signed by Gilligan on Sept. 17.

After the new free plates were issued, the city of Ironton passed an ordinance granting free parking to disabled war veterans with those special tags at any publicly owned parking space.

"It started in Ironton, but eventually, it went all over the state," Mrs. Fox said.

However, Fox was nearing the end of a battle with sinus cancer.

"He was in Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped," Mrs. Fox said. "He had two brothers that died of cancer that were both in the service. One serving in Alaska came down with stomach and lung cancer and the one serving in Vietnam was exposed to Agent Orange. When Joby had cancer, there was nothing they could do for him."

When the bill was passed, Davidson called Fox's home.

"He called wanting Joby to know the legislation passed before Joby left us," Mrs. Fox said.

Fox died at his home a month later at 44. He is buried in Section 1, Lot 1, Grave 1 at Woodland Cemetery.

Mrs. Fox still lives in the Ironton home the two shared, which was specifically built in 1953 for handicapped veterans. The house features wider doorways and rails in the bedroom and bathroom. The Foxes paid off the house with a $10,000 grant from the federal government, and from Mr. Fox's coin collection. It was expected to be paid off in 20 years, but the debt was paid in 17.

She is a a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, the Gold Star Wives of America and the Disabled Veterans Association in Chicago.

Her husband left behind their adopted son -- also his great-nephew -- Thomas Anthony Knapper Fox.

"Tony was in our home since he was a baby," Mrs. Fox said. "We adopted him when he was 13 years old. When he played baseball, the coach noticed he could throw a ball anywhere. It was because Joby played with him, catching the ball. Tony knew that if he missed Joby's glove, he'd have to run behind Joby to get it."

Their son now works in Hilliard and their granddaughter is a sophomore at the University of Toledo.

The Foxes

attended every Ironton High School home football game. They always had a special place to park for the games.

"He left love and hope, even when he was handicapped," she said. "He was a person who loved people, loved life. He never gave up. He served his fellow man from his wheelchair.

"People are not as patriotic as what they used to be. We need to be thankful for not only the boys who died, but the ones who were left with a disability. We need to observe all Veteran's Days."