Monday, April 28, 2008
Humor and activity keep man, 94, popular and healthy
This Sam Fox is not the U.S. ambassador to Belgium.
"I'm the poor Sam Fox," Fox said when asked about the wealthy St. Louis businessman of the same name who was appointed to an ambassador's post last year by President George W. Bush.
"I met him at my doctor's office," Fox said of his namesake. "I was coming in as he was going out. The nurse said, 'Sam Fox, meet Sam Fox.' I sometimes get his phone calls and mail, because I'm listed and he's not. I pass it on to his secretary."
This Sam Fox is important in other ways. At 94, he is the captain of his bowling team, the Ten Pins, and is the oldest participant in the St. Louis Senior Olympics, which will be held May 23-26. He's also a popular fellow. An interview at Strike 'N' Spare Lanes in Creve Coeur was interrupted repeatedly by Fox's friends and fellow bowlers stopping by to trade greetings and wisecracks.
That, it quickly became apparent, is Fox's magic elixir for a long, worthwhile life: A sense of humor that is generously shared. The medical profession has long known that a good outlook is as important as exercise and diet in keeping healthy and fit. This Sam Fox is living proof.
"I'm always joking around," Fox said. "I laugh a lot. And I keep active."
The mail carrier walked by with his delivery for the bowling lane and, of course, shared a few words and a laugh with Fox. "If the other Sam Fox has as much spirit as this one, he truly is a rich man," the mail carrier said.
Fox is a well-known personality with the staffers at the Jewish Community Center, the Olympics headquarters. "He comes in at least once a week, and he always has this big grin on his face," said coordinator Abbey Hartmann. "He's sunny, cracking jokes with us, full of life and vigor. He's very proud of what he's accomplished, and just happy to be here."
HIS JOURNEY TO THE LANES
This Sam Fox was born Aug. 20, 1913, the second oldest of six children. "My father had a men's clothing factory on Locust in St. Louis," he said. "He pulled me out of Soldan High School when I was 15 and put me to work as his bookkeeper, doing his payroll."
Fox was in the Army in World War II — the only time he admits to smoking and drinking — and went back to the factory after the war. In 1950, he married his wife, Minna, who died in 1993 at the age of 79. The couple had two boys and a girl.
Fox officially retired in 1978, at the age of 65, but has been going strong, in other ways, ever since. He lives at Covenant House, an assisted-living facility, and in warm weather walks the short distance to the lanes to bowl on Wednesdays and Fridays. "The doctor told me to bowl until I die," Fox said. "Last year, we were the champions of our seniors league. We might win it this year, too."
"I also call bingo," Fox said. "I volunteered to do it for 60 years at the Jefferson Barracks and Cochran Hospital on Grand Avenue. Now, I do it on Saturday nights at Covenant House."
Age has taken a bit of a toll. Fox has lost two inches in height, and now stands an even 5 feet. His bowling average is down to 142. "When I was 72, I had a 265 game and a 689 series," he said. And he takes nine medications a day because of heart and kidney ailments. But his hearing is fine and he only wears glasses to read.
"I've seen a lot of things in my lifetime — radio and television, air conditioning. When I was young, we didn't even have fans. I used to go to hockey games, the St. Louis Flyers minor-league team. After the hockey games, we went bowling, cause that's where the girls were."
MEMORIES AND GRATITUDE
For the interview, Fox brought a shoe box full of ribbons he has won in the Senior Olympics. In 25 years, he has collected 16 ribbons in the bowling competition. "I also competed in table tennis," he said. "I played last year, and didn't do too well. They asked me to play this year, but I told them I'm too old.
"You meet a lot of nice people at the Senior Olympics; they come from all over the country. It's great for the companionship."
The rest of the Ten Pins had finished their warm-up frames, and Fox had to go.
"For an old man, I'm doing OK," he said as he got up. "I've got three wonderful kids, two grandchildren, and a lot of friends. I used to go out with a 93-year-old woman. When she found out how old I was, she quit me."
Fox walked off, chuckling at what may have been a joke.
For information on the Senior Olympics, call 314-432-5705, or visit stlouisseniorolympics.org.
Home: Creve Coeur
Occupation: Retired bookkeeper
What he did: He is the oldest competitor in the St. Louis Senior Olympics, and the captain of his bowling team.
Quotable: "You meet a lot of nice people at the Senior Olympics; they come from all over the country. It's great for the companionship."
WHAT HE EATS
At 5-feet and 135 pounds, Sam Fox doesn't really worry about his diet. "A lot of people tell me at my age, I ought to eat what I want," he said. "I won't eat a lot of vegetables. I take a beer in the daytime, once in a while."
Breakfast: A waffle from the microwave and coffee.
Lunch: A sandwich, and coffee.
Dinner: A prepared dinner in the microwave.