SARATOGA SPRINGS — It was a completely different time. The early 1960s - prior to the summer of love, prior to the turmoil the country would experience due to the Vietnam War. It was a time that saw the construction of great public sector projects – sometimes in conjunction with the private sector, but clearly led by our elected officials. In 1960s New York State, the Governor was Nelson Rockefeller. A Republican – surprising, perhaps in that these were nothing like today’s Republicans – or today’s Democrats for that matter. Rockefeller, and the leaders of his day, used great public projects as the cornerstone of their economic programs. Whether you agree with his agenda or not in retrospect, Gov. Rockefeller’s economic model for upstate involved giving nearly town a public sector anchor – usually a branch of SUNY or, in some cases, a prison. But for Saratoga, he had something else in mind – a jewel. An artistic wonder that was to become what we fondly call SPAC. Perhaps his wife –Margaretta – known popularly as “Happy” spurred this on. “Happy” would later serve as Chair of the Board for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1971, and was named Honorary Chair of SPAC’s 50th Anniversary, before her passing on May 19, 2015. But regardless, this wasn’t going to be an easy case of Nelson spending money just to please his wife. Ask someone who was there. “‘Rocky’ wasn’t going to move on this without seeing evidence of a strong civic commitment from the local community,” said William P. “Bill” Dake. The Dake family, as well as others with names like Lewis Swyer, Richard Leach and Marylou Whitney, among others, provided the cornerstone local foundations for the performing arts mecca to come– and one which has stood the test of time – as evidenced in 2015 being named the Best Outdoor Music Venue in the United States by a USA Today Reader’s Poll. Brick and mortar and steel are one thing, but the civic commitment that made SPAC what it is goes way beyond that. “From a programming standpoint.” Bill Dake recalled, “we recognized that we were coming into an age where live entertainment was being severely challenged by new forms of electronic entertainment.” In the 1960s, this would be primarily television, yet this is even truer today –with live performance being challenged by a myriad of digital entertainment delivery options. “Our response was to offer ‘the best of breed’ in every category,” Bill Dake said. “This not only included a spectacular setting, but also world class resident companies – New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra – and also the best of everything in opera, theatre and every other performance genre.” That commitment to excellence later extended further – to Jazz, Rock, and even multi-media performances. Whatever the state-of-the-art was at the time, SPAC embraced it. Because of that philosophical cornerstone, SPAC not only survived – it thrived. “What SPAC offered then, and continues to today,” Bill Dake concluded, “is more than a lovely setting, more than a performance – it’s a superior experience.” Some things don’t change – even after 50 years. When you attend SPAC this summer, take a moment to celebrate that the cornerstones, laid over five decades ago, are as strong as ever. Coming June 24: “All that Jazz,” the “Greatest Musical Day of My Life! And other surprises.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A truly special and unique man, Norman M. Fox, 96, of Saratoga Springs, passed away peacefully on Friday, February 26, at Wesley Health Care Center with his family at his side.
Born July 28, 1919 at Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn, NY, he was the son of Russian immigrants Isador Fox and Pauline Sirgutz Fox. Norman was the youngest of three boys and the only one born in America. He brought joy to his family from the day he was born until the day he departed us.
Norman attended City College in NYC until he was drafted to serve his country in WWII. This young Army recruit was immediately selected to participate in an elite training program at MIT in Boston. After two years he was deployed to the Pacific Theatre and honorably served as a member of the Greatest Generation in the Philippines, New Guinea and Japan.
Norman’s greatest joy was when he was introduced to a Canadian beauty, Eva Rudin. They were married March 29, 1947 in New York City and they celebrated 54 years together until her death in October 2001. Norman and Eva came to Saratoga Springs in 1947, where they started a business, and the Fox Family has been continually in business on Broadway for almost 69 years.
As a businessman in downtown Saratoga Springs, Norman was a true leader and was very involved in making this the best city it could be. He was one of the original founders of the Downtown Merchants Association and the Special Assessment District. He served for many years on the City of Saratoga Springs Planning Board as Vice Chair. For all his efforts to enhance the city he loved, he was honored by The Pillar Society, The Rotary Foundation and was a recipient of The Starbuck Award. In 1978, Norman sold the business to his son Harvey so Norman could pursue other interests which included buying and selling properties in downtown Saratoga Springs and founding a mortgage banking business.
Norman was a true renaissance man with many interests. In the 1950’s he began a record company, Spa Records with his good friend, F. Charles Adler, a conductor with the Vienna Philharmonic. In the early 1990’s he donated a renowned illustrated book collection to Skidmore College and endowed a continuing lecture series now in its 25th year, which has brought in some of the country’s preeminent illustrated book scholars. He was an avid antique buyer, stamp, coin and art collector and lover of the opera.
Norman and Eva had two children, Cindy Fox Aisen of Carmel, IN and Harvey R Fox of Saratoga Springs who survive him. Norman’s greatest sadness was being predeceased by his cherished granddaughter Taryn Fox in 1997 and by his wife Eva in 2001. Norman is also survived by his son-in-law Alex Aisen, his daughter-in-law Cassie R. Fox and five grandchildren, Jevan P. Fox and his wife Jerusha, Amanda, Adam, Ariel and Andrew Aisen. Norman also leaves behind many special friends who went out of their way to make sure that his days were happy ones right through the end. There are angels in this world and in Norman’s case, they were named Phil Klein, Mike Seidel and Catherine Golden.
Calling hours were held on Tuesday, March 1 at the William. J. Burke & Sons/Bussing and Cunniff Funeral Homes, 628 North Broadway in Saratoga Springs. Burial with military honors took place on Wednesday, March 2 at Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville.
If you would like to make a donation in his memory, we suggest Wesley Health Care Center, 131 Lawrence Street or Saratoga Sponsor-a-Scholar, PO Box 107, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Norman will be remembered for being a loving husband, wonderful father, cherished grandfather and loyal friend. We miss him already.
Online remembrances may be made at burkefuneralhome.com.