Funeral director closes business after 48 years

George Fox stands outside the funeral home, where he has lived and worked for the past 48 years. Photo by David Lee

 

GERMANTOWN—This is an obituary for a funeral home.

The Yadack-Fox Funeral Home at 209 Main Street will close December 1 after 67 years as a hometown place where families and friends throughout the region have gone to make final arrangements for their loved ones.

While the funeral home has come to the end of its days, the funeral director, George Fox, 73, is headed to a new life in a warmer place down below—not that warm or far below—he and his bride of three years, Paula, are moving to Maryland.

For the past 48 of its years, the funeral home has been Mr. Fox’s home and business, but now it’s time to retire. He is taking a preemptive hint from his predecessor, Peter Yadack, who sold him the place in 1971, retired to Florida and died three months later of a heart attack.

Mr. Yadack purchased the circa 1837 residence from Johnas Potts in 1951. According to Mr. Fox, Mr. Potts was a fisherman, butcher and county coroner. Since Mr. Fox purchased the funeral home, he has refurbished and tripled the size of the place, which includes an upstairs residence, by adding three-bedrooms, two chapels and a lounge. He did all the construction himself.

The funeral home is spacious and feels lived-in, with foxes everywhere. Literally on shelves, in display cases and strategically placed throughout, are hundreds of fox figurines and statuettes, even a doorstop, that people have given to him over the years.

Born in Wayland, NY, Steuben County, Mr. Fox went off to college at the University of Pittsburgh. While a student, Mr. Fox told The Columbia Paper in an interview earlier this month, he had to work. One of his jobs was as a deliveryman for a florist. It was when making floral deliveries to funeral homes that his interest in becoming a mortician started and he went on to study at Simmons College of Mortuary Science in Syracuse.

He joined the Army in 1968 and served until 1970 as a sergeant during the Vietnam War. He was attached to the 25th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne, 5th group Special Forces. He was awarded two Bronze Stars, Army Accommodation Medal, campaign medals, Tet Offensive medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry as well as small arms sharp-shooter medals and 4.2 mortar.

When he came home, he looked for a place to break into the funeral business and found Germantown. He said the town was “gracious” and welcoming to him, “it was like my hometown out in the boondocks.”

People accepted me so I went out of my way to make them more comfortable,” he said.

Over the years, Mr. Fox has directed thousands of funerals—some of them during power outages and blizzards.

He said there’s no limit on how many funerals or how often a funeral can take place. “You do as many as you can do.”

For him, it’s all about helping people.

Many times people are distraught, “they want me to take charge so they don’t have to do it themselves.” He often hears thanks from people who tell him, “You made it so simple, we did not have to do a thing.”

Additionally, Mr. Fox added refrigeration facilities at the funeral home and purchased grave-defrosting equipment so families would not have to wait through the winter months to bury their relatives and relive the grief all over again.

People have become smarter about funeral planning and now often shop around for more affordable arrangements, he said. Cremation, once religiously prohibited, is now increasingly popular.

Many more graves can be situated in a plot of cremated remains. Green burials are also more common with some cemeteries now designating space at the edge of the woods or in a meadow to accommodate them.

Also more frequent are funerals where the deceased has no religious affiliation, often called celebration of life events, where instead of clergy guiding the ceremony, friends and relatives do.

The funeral home has prided itself on providing services to all faiths including traditional and non-traditional funerals and cremation services. In addition to Upstate New York, with the influx of New York City residents into the area, Yadack-Fox provided full services to all New York City hospitals, nursing facilities and cemeteries including those on Long Island.

Though Mr. Fox sought out buyers interested in taking over the funeral home business, he was not successful. “Nobody wants to do the 24/7 anymore, it’s not just a business, it’s a way of life,” he laments, noting new morticians work for someone else, go to work for corporations or go to NYC, where there are unions.

Over the years Mr. Fox has pursued many endeavors, such as Ye Ol’ Print Shop, which he ran out of the carriage house on the property. He was a flight instructor for powered parachutes under the business name, The Flying Fox. Later he purchased a helicopter and became known for “buzzing” friends in the area. He is an accomplished carpenter, a skill he put to use by buying and rebuilding older homes in the town. He has been in charge of the Viewmont Rural Cemetery for more than 12 years.

Whenever he could find some free time he went fishing on the Hudson River or a local stream.

Now he has his sights set on Deal Island, (previously known as Devil’s Island), Maryland, in the Chesapeake Bay, 14-miles off the mainland.

There he has purchased an 11-acre farm where he plans to grow “weeds in the garden” and go fishing.

His life philosophy is simple, he said, “When you do everything in your power to make life better for others, your life will be rewarding.”

To contact Diane Valden email moc.r1544434841epapa1544434841ibmul1544434841oc@ne1544434841dlavd1544434841

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