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Obituary: The Revd Harvey Fox

20 April 2018

Canon Richard Williams writes:

THE Revd Harvey Harold Fox, who served his entire ministry in the diocese of Birmingham, died on 16 March, just ten days after his 91st birthday, at his home in Briar Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Harvey was born in Sparkhill, Birmingham, and, like many of his generation, he left school as a youngster to start work with a local business, Harris & Sheldon Shopfitters. As soon as he turned 17, with the Second World War still raging, he promptly volunteered and was posted to the Navy. He used to joke about starting his naval career at Butlin’s, as he was posted for initial training to HMS Royal Arthur at the former Butlin’s Skegness holiday-camp.

War was nearly over; so he did not spend long in the Navy, but he did travel as far as Colombo, in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon. His journey home was in the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable and, once back in England, he was demobbed and returned to work at Harris & Sheldon, where he was promoted to assistant buyer. It was in the offices here that he met his wife to be, Betty Walls, after having taken out every other girl in the office. They married on 1 September 1952 at St Paul’s, Balsall Heath, where they had been worshipping. Here, Harvey became a Reader, and started a Scout pack; it was the beginning of a long association with Scouting.

It was at St Paul’s that Harvey felt a calling to ministry and, encouraged by the Vicar, the Revd Chris Martineau, Harvey went to a selection conference, and, in 1958, to Lichfield Theological College. He returned to Birmingham to be ordained deacon in 1960 and priest in 1961, by Bishop Leonard Wilson, to a title at Holy Trinity, Birchfield. It was here in 1961, that Elizabeth, Betty and Harvey’s first child, was born.

The family moved to St Michael’s, Boldmere, in Sutton Coldfield, in 1962, where his curacy was marked by the church burning down. He enjoyed working with the vicar in planning the new church, and while there their second daughter, Alison, was born, in 1965.

That year, Harvey became Vicar of Emmanuel Church, Sparkbrook. Across the road from the church was the headquarters of the 194 Squadron of the Air Cadet Corps; Harvey soon became their chaplain; this was the renewal of a connection he had made some years before — he had been a cadet prior to war service — and one that was to continue long after he left Sparkbrook in 1971.

The family’s next move was to Dordon, a mining village in the north of the diocese. After six years in Dordon, they moved to the leafier suburbs of Four Oaks, to the busy and active church of All Saints. This was a very good time for the family, and they have many happy memories of the people at Four Oaks. In 1982, Harvey was offered the slightly quieter living of Packwood with Hockley Heath, and so would often say that he had served in the northernmost and southernmost parishes of the diocese.

In 1990, ill health made him take the decision to retire early, aged 63, and a vacancy in the four bungalows then owned by the Church Pensions Board in Alveston, Warwickshire, brought him to the parish of St James, where he was, for many years, and during an interregnum, a great help and support. He and Betty lived for a while next door to a retired priest, about whom Harvey would say, “He was ordained the year I was born!”

Harvey and Betty moved from Alveston to Henley-in-Arden to be nearer their daughters, but, in 2016, came back to Stratford-upon-Avon to live in supported accommodation at Briar Croft. By this time, Harvey’s Alzheimer’s had progressed, but, with the support of carers, Betty managed to keep him at home right until the end, needing support from the Shakespeare Hospice only during the last few days. He passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Friday 16 March.

Harvey was brought up in what you might call a “Prayer Book Catholic” tradition. He was Church of England through and through, and all his parishes were of “central” churchmanship, although he enjoyed the occasional foray into more Anglo-Catholic territory at St Alban’s, Conybere Street, and pilgrimages to Walsingham. He was the epitome of that good, solid pastoral ministry which stood the Church in good stead for many years.

He will be greatly missed by the many people who knew him, and particularly for his humour. Even in his later years, he never lost that sense of fun. When I asked him two years ago what he was hoping to get for Christmas, he said he didn’t know. When I suggested a bottle of whisky, quick as a flash he replied, “What, just the one?”

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