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Running with the Foxes – memorial marathon comes alive

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The legend of Gerald Fox was reactivated last Sunday, 12 June, as more than 4 500 people – including three close family members – ran together in the Gerald Fox Memorial Race.

Rocky Road Runners put on the annual race, which forms part of the Vitality Run Series, in honour of Fox, a popular member of the club and a dear personal friend who was a murdered in a violent crime in 2003.

Starting that year, the race was held annually until 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that people ran it virtually over the past two years and recorded their time themselves. This year, the run was reactivated.

Fox was an avid runner who completed the Comrades 16 times between 1984 and 2002.

Fox’s daughter, Hailey Fox’s, memories of her dad are that he was always running. “It was very important to him, so he would dig it to see his family doing it,” she said. She participates in the fun run and did so with a friend this year. “The race is always in such good spirit and families can all join in, moms and prams, and then we generally go to the cemetery afterwards, and I put the medal on his grave,” she said.

Rabbi Jonathan Fox, whose dad’s first cousin was Gerald, runs a few times a week and has done this race before. “I made a special effort to run in the race this time to honour Gerald. I ran the 10km with my son, Gidon, who’s here from overseas, and I came second in the 50 to 59 category.”

Runners either competed in the 21.1km or 10km events, or participated in the 5km fun run. All distances ended at the Johannesburg Zoo.

Fox was tragically killed in an attempted robbery at his cleaning materials factory in Cleveland, Johannesburg, on 18 October 2003. He was 61 at the time.

His business, G. Fox and Company, was founded as a humble family concern in the early 1960s. Run by Gerald and his father, Cecil, it grew into one of South Africa’s largest suppliers and manufacturers of rags. At the height of its rag production, the company was Africa’s largest importer of second-hand clothing used in rags. In 1968, the company expanded its product range to include personal protective equipment, cleaning products, and paper products.

“Gerald would give people jobs,” says Jonathan. “Whether they were disabled or even blind, he would give anyone and everyone a job – including elderly people. My gran worked at the company until she was over 80. He was just so kind and benevolent to everyone and anyone. He would give so much charity to people.

“He would also dish out the G. Fox and Company t-shirt – and every runner had one. At the end of a race, he would stand next to his car with his boot full of hundreds and hundreds of shirts. He handed them out to anyone and everywhere – friends, underprivileged people, and privileged people. He was so popular.”

Gerald was very involved in the development of underprivileged runners, many of whom worked in his factory. He did great work for the Achilles Club, which at the time cared for the athletic needs of handicapped runners worldwide.

He also guided one of his blind workers, Johnny Demas, who set a world record for a blind runner by running 21 consecutive Comrades between 1988 and 2008. Fox succeeded Dema’s previous guide, Roy Krowitz, in 2002.

“I feel very confident running with Gerald,” Demas told Independent Online in 2002. “We have spent many hours together on the road training for this Comrades. He is very strong and very experienced. I have much to thank him and my clubmates for.”

Recalling Gerald’s funeral, Jonathan said, “It was possibly the largest attended funeral ever at Westpark [cemetery] because he had an impact on so many people’s lives – Jewish and non-Jewish. He was just an incredible legend of kindness.”

The following is inscribed on Gerald’s tombstone: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

The words were found, Hailey said, “in all his jacket pockets, in his desk, on his wall. It was just something he lived by, so we put it on the tombstone”.

Gerald is survived by his wife, Nola, and three children, Ryan, Hailey, and Jason.

“He was an all-round amazing guy,” says Hailey. “After he died, we just found out more and more about what he did. He believed in empowering people to better themselves rather than just giving handouts. He would rather buy takkies and train someone.

“I remember him being so incredibly down to earth, so friendly with everyone, so kind, always smiling, just so incredibly personable, easy to be with,” says Jonathan. “He just loved people. He exuded life. He was larger than life. He made such an impact on me and our entire family.

“I feel so much pride in the surname “Fox”, hugely because of Gerald. He made the Fox surname well known and illustrious. He had a collection of antique cars. He drove my wife to our wedding in one of his amazing antique cars. He would drive brides to their weddings. That was one of the many things he did. Everyone knew Gerald, and loved him.”

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s 21.1km and 10km races were donated to the Johannesburg Zoo, and a portion of the fun run proceeds went to Parktown Girls High School.

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