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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Harry George Fox, deputy police commissioner

Posted on Thu, Oct. 28, 2004

Harry George Fox, 88, deputy Phila. police commissioner

By Gayle Ronan Sims Inquirer Staff Writer

Former Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Harry George Fox, 88, who devoted his life to good police work and community activism, died Monday of congestive heart failure at Evangelical Manor, a retirement community in the Northeast.

His boss while he was the number-two officer during the 1970s, former Police Commissioner Joseph F. O'Neill, fondly remembered him yesterday "as a true gentleman from the old school, a very competent commander, and a true friend."

"Harry was capable of evaluating any situation and recommending appropriate action," O'Neill said.

Deputy Commissioner Fox's first connection with the force began shortly after he graduated from Frankford High School in 1933. He got a job as a clerk because he could type and take shorthand. He remained a clerk until 1942, when he went in! to the Army, and his skills landed him a job clerking for several generals in Europe during World War II.

After he returned to Philadelphia, he again joined the department - but this time as a policeman. Because of his military background, he started out in 1946 as a sergeant.

From the first, he was drawn to helping young people.

Throughout the 1950s, he was head of the juvenile-crime unit, and eventually headed the department's first gang-control and human-relations units.

In 1970, he led a symposium on gangs and education at Temple University at which he said: "You have to be brave to be a policeman."

And busy.

Deputy Commissioner Fox, who assumed that post in 1971, founded dozens of police programs, including the modern-era Town Watch in Philadelphia, Police Community Relations, Police/Clergy Cooperative, Hero Scholarship Fund, and K-9 Academy.

In the late 1940s, he began working on a program to deter youths from getting in! to trouble. His efforts became, in 1947, the Police Athletic League o f Philadelphia. After he retired from the force in 1982, he became executive administrator of PAL, a job he held for five years.

In 1973, PAL named its scholarships after him.

He studied at Rutgers University, Temple University and Community College of Philadelphia, and later taught criminology and public relations at these institutions. He also testified before Congress three times during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s.

He was a 33d-degree Mason, active in the Boy Scouts, National Conference of Christians and Jews, American Legion, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, and other groups.

He married Ellen Jester in 1936, and the couple raised two children in the Northeast. She died in 1973.

In 1976, Deputy Commissioner Fox arranged details for the American Legion Convention at the Bellevue Stratford, as the hotel was then called. Thirty-four conventioneers ultimately di! ed of Legionnaires' disease.

The next year, he married Mary Martha Naytas-Rohde, a hospital administrator he had met during the Legionnaires' disease investigation.

They settled in Bustleton, in a split-level rancher they decorated with the more than 55 award plaques he had won during his time with the force. A year ago, when the couple moved to Evangelical Manor, they could not take them all.

Even at Evangelical Manor, Deputy Commissioner Fox did not stop. Before he went to the hospital a few weeks ago, he finished editing the November issue of the Manor's Banner newspaper.

In addition to his wife, Deputy Commissioner Fox is survived by a daughter, Myra Jane Gosnear; stepsons C. William Rohde and David Rohde; stepdaughters Janyce House and M. Joyce Thomasson; 10 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and three sisters. He was preceded in death by son Harry C. Fox, a former police detective.

Friends may vi! sit at 9 a.m. Saturday at Wesley Hall at Evangelical Manor, 8401 Roos evelt Blvd. A memorial service will follow at 11. Burial will be private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Hero Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia, 1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia 19103.