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Geoff and Josephine “Josie” Fox: Art Appreciation

Top photo: The generosity of Josie and Geoff Fox is helping to conserve four treasured paintings of the Congregation. (Submitted photo)

Art, English, physics and motocross racing — these four areas have made for a very interesting life for Geoff and Josephine “Josie” Fox. The art, English and physics brought them together. The racing, however, allowed them to bring all their gifts together to create not only a well recognized family business, but also the means to support charitable causes near and dear to their hearts. Growing up an only child in Muncie, Ind., Josie quickly developed an appreciation for art and family history. When her father Emery Long died when she was 7 years old, she became exceptionally close to her mother Margaret (Steinberger) Long, who was a 1922 history graduate from Indiana University.

“She loved to talk history to me,” said Josie, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and art at Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., and later a master’s degree in art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was at UW-Madison that Josie met Geoff.

Part of the history that Margaret shared with Josie included explaining the family’s connection to Sister Maurice Schnell (1830-1902), a prolific sister-artist. Sister Maurice, who entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1847, was Josie’s maternal great-great aunt.

Josie, however, would keep these family memories in the back of her mind as the responsibilities of raising four children and helping her husband start a new business made demands on her attention. After Geoff completed his PhD in physics at UW-Madison, the family moved to California where Geoff started teaching at Santa Clara University.

“My husband’s hobby, which he discovered and developed while we were in Madison, was to ride a motorcycle off road,” said Josie.

Monica Radecki and Jeff Antkowiak (foreground) prepare one of Sister Maurice Schnell’s paintings for transport to Monica’s art studio in South Bend, Ind.

Geoff took his hobby to new heights when he competed in several motocross events while teaching at Santa Clara.

While still teaching, Geoff bought into a motorcycle retail shop that sold both dirt and street bikes. He soon discovered a need for a replacement parts catalog. Using Josie’s background in art and English, the first catalog was produced at the Fox family kitchen table. Eventually, Geoff left the world of academia, focusing all his energy into his own business. By 1977, Geoff and Josie began to feature more racing apparel in their catalog, a hit with motocross teams and fans alike.

Today, Fox Racing, Inc., with its familiar fox-head logo, is known throughout the world not only for its racing apparel but also for its general line of sportswear. Geoff and Josie and their four children as well as more than 400 employees at their Morgan Hill, Calif., facility, keep the business humming. Fortunately, with all this help, Josie is able to pursue some of her other interests.

One of these interests is the preservation of historic and artistic works. And this is where theconnection to Sister Maurice is so important. Thanks to Josie’s love of art, her interest in family history and the Geoff and Josie Fox Family Foundation, four of Sister Maurice’s paintings will be conserved by Monica Radecki, a paintings conservator from South Bend, Ind. In March, Monica and her assistant, Jeff Antkowiak, took the works of art via a moving van to her studio.

“It’s a very fulfilling, satisfying reaction that I have to extend basic help. When you get into restoration, it’s a large commitment. You want it to be done right, and when it’s fully restored, you want it to have a long life under the best of circumstances,” said Josie.

Many of Sister Maurice Schnell’s paintings included local vegetation and historic mother house buildings as these close-up views illustrate.

Art, English, physics and motocross racing — thank goodness all four came together in the Fox family. These diverse areas and Monica’s able hands will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy Sister Maurice Schnell’s works of art.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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