Norman M. Fox, a longtime Saratoga businessman and one of the driving forces behind the rebirth of downtown, has died.
He was 96 years old.
As newlyweds, Fox and his wife, Eva, founded their first business in Saratoga Springs in 1947, and there has been a Fox family business on Broadway for the 69 years since. Today, his son, Harvey, still runs N. Fox Jewelers on Broadway.
Fox died Friday at the Wesley Health Care Center. His former colleagues in the local business community recalled him appreciatively Wednesday, not just as a businessman but as an activist, and an advocate.
“There wasn’t much Norm didn’t have his fingerprints on,” said Thomas Roohan, a longtime Saratoga Realtor. “He was Mr. Saratoga Springs. I think people like Norm are why Saratoga Springs is a success.”
This was not just as a young man trying to build a successful business, but through his middle years, when his adopted hometown fell on hard times.
“He put his money where his mouth was,” said Roohan. “It’s hard to replace people like that. It’s for the next generation, people like us, to pick up the shovel and continue.”
Fox was born in 1919 at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, the youngest of three sons of Isador Fox and Pauline Sirgutz Fox, immigrants from Russia.
He attended City College until he was drafted during World War II, during which he served with the Army in the Philippines, New Guinea and Japan.
His obituary describes the greatest joy of his life as the moment he was introduced to the former Eva Rudin. They were married in 1947 and had two children, Cindy and Harvey.
In 1978, Fox sold his jewelry shop to his son and branched out into other areas, including mortgage banking. It was in this era that he made an impact on the future direction of Saratoga Springs.
“He led the way on a number of issues in town, especially in the downtown area,” said Joseph Dalton, who was president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce from 1970 to 2010. “He was a very quiet but detailed and effective leader.
“If you looked at Saratoga in the early 1970s, downtown was a mess,” Dalton said. “Forty percent of the first-floor space was empty. “Parking meters didn’t work, sidewalks had gaps you could lose a baby carriage in.
“He got involved in downtown redevelopment effort,” Dalton said. “Then he was an adviser on the City Center.
“All this was done very quietly — there was no showmanship about his activities. But when he talked, people in the business community listened.”
Both Dalton and Roohan credited Fox for his work on the downtown Special Assessment District, which created a funding stream for the revitalization that was envisioned.
“It’s one of things that made the city good,” Roohan said.
Fox is survived by his children, Harvey R. Fox and Cindy Fox Aisen, as well as five grandchildren. Eva died in 2001.
He was buried Wednesday with military honors at the Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville.