Who was Mary Fox? We asked her last surviving granddaughter.

She lived in a house on the east side of what is now the park named in her honor

A prominent family involved in newspapers and real estate
Mary Fox, with husband Marion Fox, in an undated photo.
It is now a patch of grass, a sitting area, and a playground, but at the east side of Mary Fox Park there once stood a two-story red brick Victorian house, complete with an attic and basement, constructed in 1898. The house is long gone, the victim of a fire and a wrecking ball in the 1960s. But in 1977, the city purchased the land, turned it into a park still beloved to this day, and named it for the woman who, at least in the later years, was that house's most famous occupant.

Mary Orahood Fox was born in 1873, somewhere in Illinois, according to granddaughter and Huning Castle resident Terri Fox. Mary later lived in Chicago, where she married Marion L. Fox, a reporter who subsequently worked at the Washington Post before getting a job at the Albuquerque Morning Journal, where he later became editor.

In Albuquerque, Mary Fox kept plenty busy herself, overseeing a real estate development and property management business. At one point, she bought a ranch in the heights that would eventually be bordered by Lomas, Zuni, San Pedro, and San Mateo. Decades before the city named a park for her, she named a park in the middle of that sprawling development for her husband. Marion L. Fox Memorial Park is still around today.

Marion died in 1942. In 1950, Mary broke her hip, an injury that prompted her son, Charles Fox, to move his family back to the house at 13th and Roma, where he had grown up. The family, including 3-year-old Terri, all pitched in to take care of Mary, who used a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Fox spent most of those later years in an upstairs room that had a twin bed, a TV purchased with an eye toward watching the 1956 conventions (Dwight Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson), a small desk, a phone, and a bell she would ring if she needed anything. 

"She never came downstairs ... I hated that bell," Terri Fox said, adding that the family had dubbed the practice of tending to Mary "grandmothersitting."
Fox lived at 13th and Roma in this house, on the site of what is now Mary Fox Park. Photos courtesy of Chelsea Harnish.
Mary's personality is a bit difficult to capture - after all, we have only the perspective of people who knew her as children. But we know she was something of a political junkie - likely a Republican but never firmly established one way or the other, Terri said. She was sharp until the end, often working on real estate matters from that upstairs room, and didn't put up with youthful nonsense.

"She was quite strict with us kids," Terri said. "She wanted us all to be quiet."

She also kept an eye on things, watching the street closely from her perch on the second floor.

But Mary had a softer side as well.

"She was lovely - and she would tell me all about the neighborhood," family friend and neighbor Carl Macaluso recalled. "If I went over to play and none of the kids were there I'd go up and talk to grandma."

Mary was apparently happy to relate stories about the neighborhood, the orchards near Fruit Ave., land management adventures, family, and other topics that Macaluso took an interest in.

Fundamentally, he reckons, Mary was not terribly pleased with her situation.

"She was once a thriving force in Albuquerque," he said. "I think she felt as though she was dealt a pretty bad deck of cards."

Whatever the case, he's grateful for her friendship: "She was willing to have a good conversation with a kid and take her time to do it," he said.

Mary Fox died in September of 1961 (read the Journal's death notice here), and Terri and her family subsequently moved to the northeast heights. 
 
Now living in Huning Castle, Fox said she has never spent much time in the park named for her grandfather. But she still regularly visits the one that honors her grandmother.

"I do like the Mary Fox Park," she said. "It's a beautiful park and I'm so glad they built it."
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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