Billy Joe Fox

Billy Joe Fox

July 6, 1926 — January 30, 2018

Billy Joe Fox, 91, of Burnet died Jan. 30, 2018, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's. Fox was born July 6, 1926, in Nix, Texas, the son of Denny C. Fox and Addie Mae Lively.

A funeral service was held Friday, Feb. 2, at the Church of Christ, 102 S. Vanderveer, Burnet, with Tim Denton officiating. Burial followed at Post Mountain Cemetery in Burnet.

Pallbearers were John Grigsby, Jim Vegher, Greg Hancock, Dallas Woods, Mark Fox, Wallace Herbert, Ken Anderson, Bert Denson, Stanford Todd and Ollie Rodriguez.

Honorary pallbearers were Robert Reifel, Martene Cardenas, Rick Espitia, Steve Roberts, Bill Herbert, Jim Luther Sr., Nelson Lynn, Mike Holcomb, Camm Lary Jr., Cary Johnson, Bob Dickens and John Hoover.

Fox was a prominent Burnet community leader, a highly successful businessman and real estate developer and an enthusiastic community booster throughout his life and career. After his birth in the small Lampasas County town of Nix, his family moved to a ranch just north of Burnet in 1938. He graduated from Burnet High School in 1944 and was considered a star player for his Burnet baseball team. His talent eventually led him to a try out with the Washington Senators in 1951 and with a good spring training showing earned him a $4,000 bonus to play on their minor league team.

He ended his career after marrying high school classmate, Vonnie Riddell, the daughter of Texas’ longest serving sheriff, Wallace Riddell, on Dec. 8, 1953. Fox then began to pursue several careers, which led him and Vonnie to some incredible high points.

After marrying Vonnie, he invested in 12 refrigerated trucks and began hauling produce from California. During the later 1950s, the couple built and operated Thunderbird Lodge resort on the shore of Lake Buchanan. While living at the lodge in the early 1960s, Fox was hired by the former Burnet County Judge to help sell lots for a new subdivision on the lake at Granite Shoals (later renamed Lake LBJ). Fox soon after became sales manager for the development and over a two-year period, Fox and his team sold 12,000 lots in what would become the city of Granite Shoals.

Fox then began a construction career and hit the road to build projects including roads and infrastructure for other subdivisions. He settled back in Burnet in 1972 to open a real estate office and concentrate on local projects.

His success included several unusual ventures including an investment in a Canadian Olympic boxer named Willie de Wit in 1984. Fox built a gym and training center in Burnet for de Wit, who some experts thought had a shot at the heavyweight crown. Although he lost only one professional fight, de Wit quit fighting after his father and brother were killed in a plane crash, ending Fox’s sports management career.

Fox was always promoting Burnet and trying to make the community better. In 1990, Fox and his wife Vonnie, along with some partners, donated land they owned for what is now one of Texas’ most acclaimed municipal golf courses, Delaware Springs. Fox was honored by the community a number of times including his induction as one of the town’s Honor Citizens in 1995. Fox also was a charter member of the city’s Industrial Park board and was a staunch supporter of the local hospital which later became Seton Highland Lakes.

Fox was preceded in death by his parents, Denny C. Fox and Addie Mae Lively; brother Lester Fox; brother-in-law Pat Riddell and sisters-in-law Modena Curington and Daisy Bell Grigsby.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Vonnie Fox, nieces Rachel Curington, Mary Anne Curington, Renee Riddell, Randi Riddell-Reifel, Rachel Riddell-Holcomb, Gail Grigsby McMillan, Suzan Fox Anderson, nephews John Grigsby, Drue Fox Denson, and Melton Fox.

Memorials in his name may be made to Church of Christ, 102 S. Vanderveer, Burnet, TX 78611.

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