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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monett council declares Jack Fox Day

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mary Sue and Jack Fox, at center, stand by the bronze plaque and the photo display that will be hung in Jack Fox's honor in the terminal at the Monett airport. Mayor Jim Orr, at left, and Commissioner Jerry Dierker, at right, look on. Commissioner Mike Brownsberger was out of town and unable to attend the ceremony. [Times Photos by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Around 100 people were on hand at the Monett Municipal Airport on Sunday, Nov. 11, to honor Jack Fox for his efforts to guiding the city's development of the facility.

The Monett City Council had declared the occasion as Jack Fox Day. A reception was held in Fox's honor at the main hangar for Jack Henry and Associates. Fox's Stearman biplane had been brought into the hangar.

Mayor Jim Orr served as master of ceremonies for the occasion. He introduced fellow city council member Jerry Dierker and City Administrator Dennis Pyle. Assisting in the project to honor Fox were Dr. Mark Costley and Brian Hunter, both of whom served with Fox on the Airport Advisory Committee, Dr. Ralph Scott and Howard Frazier, airport superintendent.

The bronze plaque commemorating Jack Fox Day that will hang in the terminal building at the Monett Municipal Airport.
Orr identified dignitaries present that included Jack Henry and Associates co-founder Jerry Hall, retired EFCO president Chris Fuldner and Brenda Henry. He also recognized others who have served on the Airport Advisory Board: Gary Bass, Patti Holt, Dayton Mackey, Jack Schulz, Harold Schelin, Gale Huffmaster, Bill Medlin, Rex Kay, Jerry Sebastian, Stan Nowak and David Doennig.

"The Monett airport is much more than a provider of safe and efficient transportation," Orr said. "It is a provider of jobs and millions of dollars of economic activity. The Monett airport is truly a regional airport, serving general aviation activities with a focus on serving business activities, including small jet and multi-engine aircraft.

"This type of airport serves a significant role in supporting the local and regional economies and connecting them to the state and national economies," Orr added.

Jack Fox speaking at Jack Fox Day.
Costley spoke about how the airport property went from a family-owned facility, built by Hubert and Harold Friend to becoming a drag strip. After the property was seized in a multi-jurisdictional drug investigation in late 1980, the federal government sold it to the city for $1 in 1981.

Fox, an Air Force veteran and commercial pilot for Jack Henry and Associates, became the most visible figure promoting the development of the airport. He told Costley in 1985 that Jack Henry and he had a vision for what the airport could become. Representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) were invited to Monett to survey what locally looked like a simple resurfacing of the 2,400-foot strip.

The MoDOT official instead said the airport needed a new runway because of the hump in the terrain south of the hangars. After the new 3,000-foot runway was dedicated in June 1989, Costley recalled telling Fox that Monett now had an airport.

Formally cutting the ribbon for Fox Field was the closing ceremony for Jack Fox Day at the Monett Municipal Airport. At center, cutting the ribbon, are: Mayor Jim Orr, Airport Superintendent Howard Frazier, Mary Sue and Jack Fox, and City Administrator Dennis Pyle. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
"Son," Fox replied, "you have a runway. You haven't got an airport."

Costley said he hadn't again raised that question with Fox. He knew Fox had a greater vision, Other changes followed, such as EFCO getting a lease to build a new hangar in 1990 after EFCO founder Terry Fuldner said the company had to upgrade its facility or move its aircraft to Aurora.

Key to the public impression of the airport was the addition of a new terminal building in 1996. Costley said the terminal "is our front door," reflecting the face of the community running the airport.

Dr. Mark Costley, who served with Jack Fox on the City of Monett's Airport Advisory Board, was one of the speakers during Jack Fox Day on Nov. 11 at the airport. Pictured, from left, are: Mayor Jim Orr, Costley, Jack and Mary Sue Fox. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Costley said the Airport Board hosted public gatherings where they fried hamburgers every other month for two years as a way to broaden the public's understanding of the airport's value to the community. During those sessions, guests were introduced to Fox's vision of what the airport could become.

Hunter spoke about the economic impact of the airport. A real airport, as Fox envisioned it, provides an open door to recreational and business travelers. The airport has today become a traffic hub for chartered air traffic, helicopters and a handful of companies. Hunter said he sees many out-of-state people in Monett who arrive through the airport.

"Monett's airport ranks ninth in economic output statewide," Hunter said. "Today the airport brings in $26 million in economic output. Per capita that's more than Lambert Field in St. Louis."

Janie McCleary, granddaughter of Jack Fox, holds up one of the commemorative T-shirts created for Jack Fox Day. The back of the shirt showed a scene of Fox's Steerman biplane flying over an open field.
Fox called the recognition "an overwhelming honor." He credited others, such as the Airport Board, for their contribution. Business people also became advocates when the airport's value to them was apparent.

Fox told about the occasion when an executive visiting Jumping-Jacks Shoes chose to wait until after her two-hour flight rather than use the bathroom at the old terminal. The letter from Gerald McCaffrey at Jumping-Jacks describing that day was enough to make the point that a new terminal building was needed, even at city expense.

"Without Jack Henry, the vision and courage he had to land at the airport and put his billfold out, trying to do business here," said Fox. "His vision was so far beyond what anyone had."

Pictured above is the main hangar for Jack Henry and Associates at the Monett Municipal Airport for Jack Fox Day. Fox's Stearman biplane, at right, his recognized trademark, was displayed prominently for the occasion. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Orr honored Fox by unveiling items that will hang in the terminal building as a testimony to the efforts made for the airport. A bronze plaque bearing Fox's countenance and a framed series of photos will be placed on a wall near the pilot's lounge.

A formal ribbon cutting, overseen by the Monett Chamber of Commerce, was held for Fox Field, the renaming of the airport grounds in Fox's honor. Signage designating Fox Field is still in the planning stages.

The resolution passed by the city council on Oct. 19 in Fox's honor was read by the mayor. Orr said the city council will act on the ordinance renaming the airport at the Monett Regional Airport at the Nov. 20 meeting.

T-shirts made for the occasion by Fox's grandson, Mike Wakefield, of Carl Junction, were given away at the event. Refreshments were also served.

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