John Jay Fox Jr. ’83

John Jay Fox Jr., ’83

Architect designed altar for pope’s visit in 1979

June 16, 2003|By Mindy Hagen, Tribune staff reporter.

When Pope John Paul II announced he would visit Chicago in 1979, officials with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago announced they needed someone to design the stage and altar in Grant Park where he would celebrate mass.

They contacted John Jay Fox Jr., a partner in one of Chicago’s oldest architectural firms who specialized in designing Catholic schools and churches.

Mr. Fox gladly accepted the honor, but made sure to keep a piece of the platform to show off later.

“My father was very honored that the church trusted him to do such an important project,” said Jay Fox III, Fox’s oldest son, who followed his father into architecture and now runs his firm, Fox & Fox. “He worked hard, but he also enjoyed what he did.”

Mr. Fox, 83, who designed 30 Chicago churches and 16 Catholic high schools during his more than 50 years in architecture, died Saturday, June 14 at his Beverly home of congestive heart failure.

Mr. Fox’s father and uncle founded Fox & Fox in 1919, and family members said he always knew he wanted to go into the business.

“It’s a family tradition,” said Peggy Jester, the fourth of Mr. Fox’s six children with Lorraine, his wife of 54 years. “A lot of my childhood was spent driving past construction sites so we could see what he was working on. He wanted to follow his father the same way we looked up to him.”

After receiving his architectural degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology and working on government contracts during World War II, Mr. Fox joined his father’s firm.

In the early 1950s, he designed and built Beverly’s Christ the King Church, where he remained an active member until his death. In a large mosaic in the church’s chapel, Mr. Fox and his father are shown standing with other parishioners. Mr. Fox designed the chapel, as well as its stained-glass windows.

Although Fox & Fox is a small firm, it has a distinct place in Chicago architectural history, said retired architect Will Hasbrouck.

“I’d be surprised if Fox & Fox wasn’t the longest continuous named Chicago firm still in existence,” said Hasbrouck, who knew Mr. Fox through the Illinois Society of Architects and the Chicago Architectural Club. “John was deeply involved in many matters concerning the architecture profession. Everyone had a great respect for his work.”

When he could get away from the office, Mr. Fox often could be found on the golf course. He spent summers in Grand Beach, Mich., and won several club championships at the Grand Beach Golf Club, family members said.

In addition to his wife and eldest son and daughter, Mr. Fox is survived by sons Michael, James and Daniel and daughter Colleen Hirst. Other survivors include three sisters, Cissy O’Connor, Patricia Deiters and Sally Shannon and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be held Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Brady-Gill-Heeney Funeral Home, 2929 W. 87th St., Evergreen Park.

Visitation and services will be held Wednesday at Christ the King Church, 9235 S. Hamilton Ave., beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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