Jon Fox, a former congressman, county commissioner and state representative known for his commitment to his constituents, died on Feb. 11 after battling cancer. He was 70.
An Abington native, Fox graduated from Cheltenham High School and attended Penn State University and what is now the Widener University School of Law. He served in the Air Force Reserve for six years.
He had a favorite bumper sticker that read, “If God’s not a Penn State fan, why is the sky blue and white?” per an online tribute to Fox by his friend and former political strategist, Mark R. Weaver, who compared him to George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.
“Most of us know how to spot a typical politician: someone looking over your shoulder searching for another hand to shake, another vote to secure,” Weaver wrote. “Jon Fox rejected that ethos. Serving in local, county, state and federal office, he shunned contentious partisan fights, preferring the quiet satisfaction of helping people when government stood in their way.”
Bill Wanger, president of the local chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, called Fox “one of those when you met him you knew you met somebody special.”
Wanger remembered when Fox gave a speech at the Montgomery County Republican Committee’s annual convention the year he ran for Congress that “just blew everybody away,” he said.
The committee had favored a different candidate, but Fox — the underdog, the Nick Foles, as Wanger said — ended up getting the nomination and winning.
Wanger, too, noted Fox’s demeanor to all, regardless of political affiliation.
“In an era when politics has become less than friendly, shall we say,” Wanger said, “Jon was friendly to people from all parties.”
His first elected position, for which he served two terms, was township commissioner, representing the Jenkintown and Baederwood sections of Abington, Weaver wrote.
In 1984, he won the state legislative seat held previously by Democrat Joe Hoeffel.
In 1991, he was elected county commissioner in Montgomery County and then, on the second try, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, where he served two terms.
He became part of the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, in which Republicans gained a significant number of seats once occupied by Democrats.
A 1995 JTA story noted Fox was at the time the only new Jewish member of the 104th Congress.
“Jon was a consensus builder,” Wanger said. “He was an engager in terms of discussing the why’s. Before he would tell you what he wanted, he would tell you why it was important.”
Wanger recalled a day in July 1996 when he and his wife wanted to show their son how Congress functioned, and the family followed Fox around for a day in Washington, D.C.
Another area Fox was passionate about was the Jewish community. Even locally, he made a mark — though he might’ve done it in a red suit. Weaver wrote that for many years, Fox dressed as Santa Claus to bring toys to local children.
Fox ushered during the High Holidays for many years at Congregation Adath Jeshurun.
“I know AJ was very near and dear to him and his family,” Executive Director Robert Friedman said.
Fox’s son had his Bar Mitzvah there last year.
“He always remembered your name,” Friedman said. “You could tell he was very interested in you and your family.”
He was also active in Jewish organizations, such as serving on the national board of the Zionist Organization of America and as a longtime member of its local chapter.
Steve Feldman, executive director of the ZOA Philadelphia chapter, came to know Fox early on while a reporter at the Exponent. He interviewed Fox numerous times even before he was elected to Congress.
Fox was a “stalwart” supporter of Israel. In 1996, Feldman wrote a story detailing Fox’s resolution calling for a halt in American aid to the Palestinian Authority.
“He was there for practically everybody,” Feldman added. “It didn’t matter your party affiliation, your standing in the community — if somebody needed help and he could help, he did it.”
In the political sphere, Fox’s passing will leave a mark.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who defeated Fox in 2004 for state representative, said, “Abington lost a good man who cared deeply about public service. Jon served his community, county, commonwealth and country with distinction. He will be missed. May Jon Fox’s memory be a blessing.”
“He was a genuinely nice man who cared deeply about our community,” Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat who occupies Fox’s former seat, wrote in a statement. “I will miss him as will many others in Montgomery County.”
But aside from politics and government, Fox’s love was his family, Wanger said.
“He loved talking about them and updating you on what they were doing,” he said. When
Fox’s son was born, he — in “typical Jon Fox fashion,” Wanger laughed — sported ties with his picture on it and made business cards of his son as a future politician.
“He was just a dedicated public servant,” he said. “He was a great friend and a great family man.”
Donations may be made in Fox’s memory to Adath Jeshurun, the American Cancer Society or a charity of the donor’s choice.
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