Douglas L. Fox, 71, inventor who founded Fox Industries

October 27, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Douglas L. Fox, founder of Fox Industries Inc. and a Holocaust survivor, died Sunday of lung cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 71 and lived in Pikesville.

The Baltimore-based company manufactures epoxies and catalysts and makes repairs to infrastructures worldwide.

The company also specialized in concrete additives, coatings, sealants and waterproofing. It produced highway joints and elastomeric bearings, which allow bridge surfaces to shift during expansion and contraction caused by weather changes.

Mr. Fox owned patents on methods that were used in infrastructure repair.

He developed a process of repairing deteriorating steel, concrete or wooden bridge pilings with the application of a fiberglass jacket. The bridges could be used while repairs were being made.


Mr. Fox also developed a road patch that hardens in minutes, allowing a highway to reopen to traffic within 45 minutes after the material is applied.

A man of indefatigable energy, there was no such thing as an irresolvable construction problem for Mr. Fox.

"If people had a problem with something falling apart, they turned to Douglas L. Fox for a solution," said Jack Kinstlinger, chairman and CEO of TCI Technologies in Hunt Valley and former Colorado secretary of transportation.

"His expertise was in demand by highway departments, airports, port authorities and utilities all over the world. He was a very creative chemical engineer," he said.

"He was able to restore structural integrity to bridges without having to tear them down," said Mike Simpson, a vice president and 28-year veteran of Fox Industries. "He was the first to introduce, in 1972, a superplasticizer when mixed with concrete that allowed it to [harden] in one day rather than seven."

The true test of his ability to plug a hole while minimizing inconvenience occurred a year ago when a yawning sinkhole opened at Park Avenue and Franklin Street. The 30-foot-deep hole tore apart cable, steam, water, gas and electric lines and punctured a sewer pipe.

Mr. Fox was fond of saying, "If they can put a man on the moon then I can plug a hole in a pipe," family members recalled.

"He personally came down to the site and told me he had invented a method some time ago whereby he could fix pipes without taking them out of the ground and replacing them. [Without his method,] that would have been an expensive and time-consuming project," said George C. Balog, Baltimore public works director.

"He told me, 'I'll fix it now and we'll talk price later,' " Mr. Balog said.

"He was the kind of man who wanted to serve Baltimore, and through the years he's saved the city millions of dollars in repairs. He could solve problems others couldn't. He was certainly in a class by himself," Mr. Balog said.

Mr. Fox worked on many local projects, including the restoration of the North Avenue bridge, the Bay Bridge, Hanover Street Bridge, Key Bridge and Central Light Rail Line.

Born in Debrecin, Hungary, his formal education ended in 1944 when the Nazis placed his family in the Jewish ghetto in Marovasarhely, Hungary.

"My father and I were tattooed. My father went first to show me how to be brave," he wrote in a memoir for director Steven Spielberg's SHOAH Foundation.

While his father, mother, brother and sister were exterminated, he managed to survive the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before being liberated in 1945.

After being freed, he made his way to Italy and stowed away on a ship to Palestine where he later fought in the 1948 War for Independence.

"He immigrated to New York and then Baltimore in 1952 and didn't speak a word of English. He worked as a handyman and taught himself English by reading the dictionary," said his daughter, Edye Fox Abrams of Pikesville.

Fluent in seven languages, Mr. Fox went to work for Sika Chemical Co., where he rose to national and later international sales manager. He left the company and founded Fox Industries in 1969.

"Work and world politics were his hobby," said his daughter.

He was a member of the Engineering Society of Baltimore.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, the former Barbara Fendler, whom he married in 1954; a son, Michael Fox of Pikesville; and four grandchildren. Another daughter, Diana Lee Fox, died in 1981.

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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