Randy Fox, right, receives the Horace D. Hume Outstanding Service Award from Chamber of Commerce president Kara Sellers during the Chamber’s annual dinner on Nov. 8. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)
MENDOTA – A familiar face - and voice - to many in Mendota, Randy Fox was named the winner of the 2013 Hume Outstanding Service Award during the Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner on Nov. 8. Fox has served for many years as a Chamber board member, has emceed all types of community events and has been very involved in local sports both in coaching and officiating. However, none of that prepared Fox for hearing his name called at the dinner.
“This whole thing was quite a shock to me,” he admitted. “You look at everybody who’s been given the award. That list of people is incredible. It’s pretty humbling.”
Each year, the name of the recipient is a closely guarded secret until announced at the dinner. Fox said his first hint that he had been chosen came fairly quickly into the announcement process when his best friend, Mike Wasmer, was called to the microphone. “I had the distinct pleasure to present Mike this award a few years ago,” Fox explained. “I looked at my wife and said, ‘Oh shoot.’ She just smiled at me.”
Next, Fox looked around to see if his children were there. “I saw them come out from where they were hiding in the back,” he recalled. “I was just amazed. At that point I thought, OK, let’s do this and it was fun.”
Fox said he remembered kissing his wife, hugging his kids and thanking Wasmer. “Then I yelled at him,” he laughed. “He had to know about this for a few weeks.”
Although Fox was not born in Mendota, his family moved here when he was in sixth grade. He attended Northbrook School and then graduated from Mendota High School in 1972. At MHS he was co-captain of the cross country team and ran track. “I worked at Sam’s Steak House and went to IVCC,” he said. “That’s the extent of traditional schooling I had.”
Fox said he was close to his parents, Burl, who was the head of maintenance at MHS, and Imogene, a stay-at-home mom. He married his first wife, Rose, in 1976 and they had four children, Brian, Mike, Sean and Kate. After Rose’s death from breast cancer, he met his current wife, Kathy, and became a stepdad to her son, Curt.
As a young man, Fox held various jobs in Mendota but eventually, he found employment elsewhere and left the community. He held positions in sales, management and human resources and during those years had the opportunity to travel the world. “I did sales training in England, Germany, Argentina, Mexico and throughout North America. It was fun,” he said. “Thirteen years ago, I came back to Mendota.”
Fox explained that for a couple years, First State Bank President Tim McConville had been asking him a question. “He kept saying, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Fox said with a laugh. “Finally, 13 years ago he said, ‘Are you ready yet?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think I am.’”
That brought Fox back to Mendota and into his current job in marketing at First State Bank. “I was excited to come back home,” he acknowledged. “My children were still young, so I spent more time with them. Mendota is a wonderful town to raise children.”
One of the ways Fox stayed close to his children was through sports. He coached Little League as well as basketball at Holy Cross. Although Fox was always interested in sports, his own athletic participation was limited to track and cross country. “I did not even weigh 100 pounds when I started high school, so I couldn’t play football,” he laughed. “And I never grew tall, so basketball was out of the question.”
Fox said he realized his strength was in coaching. “I’m better at listening to guys like Steve Dinges, Mike Wasmer and Mike Kilmartin and learning what they do and then communicating that,” he explained. “I’ve had the opportunity to mentor - it’s so much fun to be around children at different ages and watch them grow.”
These days, Fox continues to be involved in sports as an IHSA official at the grade school and high school levels. He also serves as treasurer for District 20 Little League. In addition, he has had the opportunity to officiate at some higher-level competitions such as the Central States Regional Tournament. “You’re working with guys from all over the United States, some great players and some great officials,” he noted. “You’re learning from some really good people.”
Being involved in community service was just a natural progression for the outgoing Fox. “I’m a better communicator than anything else and that’s a skill that I’m really proud of,” he said.
Because of his ease with people and his innate ability to communicate, Fox has been asked to emcee all types of events such as drawdowns for the Jaycees, Booster Club, Moose and Elks, just to name a few. At this stage of life, however, he is ready to slow down a bit. “It gets to a point where it’s too much,” he admitted. “Life is really, really busy.”
In addition to his children, Fox now has four grandchildren who are a huge part of his life. At 59, he admitted he wonders where the time has gone and in accepting the award, expressed his true feelings. “When I said, ‘I feel old,’ I meant it,” he said of his comments at the dinner. “This is a lifetime achievement award. What’s going on?”
While Fox acknowledged that people a lot younger than himself have received the Hume Award, he wanted to be honest about his feelings. “I just wanted to get through the acceptance and let people know how I felt,” he said. “It’s profound and humbling. I just hope I didn’t sound like an idiot.
“I know there are a lot of deserving people out there - I just happened to be chosen,” Fox added. “That’s how I feel. It’s only fair to look at someone like Horace Hume and what he did, the quality of things – I’m not that smart. I don’t do math. Being associated with the other winners and with him is an overwhelming thing. It’s certainly something I didn’t expect.”
The best part for Fox, though, was being able to share the experience with his family. “It’s fun to have your son come to you and say, ‘I’m really proud of you dad.’ That’s profound stuff,” he said. “That makes me cry.”
Contemplating the whole experience, Fox said he has been asking himself what it means to win the Hume Award. “It means I listened to Larry Martens when I was in high school and watched him and other people like that. I wish my dad was here – I really wish he could see this,” Fox said. “It’s a profound honor. It has a solemnity that I hope continues to stay with the award because the fellow that it’s named after was a profound man, did profound things, gave back to the world. If we could all give back to the world…you have to give back.”
For Fox, sharing his gift of communication has been a way to do just that in the town he calls home. “Mendota is a great place to live and is very important to me as are my kids, my spouse and my First State Bank family,” he said. “I mean that when I say First State Bank ‘family.’ They are incredibly important to me. I would do anything for them.
“I’m a lucky guy,” he added. “There have certainly been some challenges in my life, some challenging times, but I’m still a lucky guy.”