Steamboat Springs Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Carol Booth Fox was born in Buffalo, N.Y.
Longtime civic leader Carol Booth Fox was working to make Steamboat Springs a more beautiful place right up until her death Wednesday at Rollingstone Respite House at age 81.
“The day before she died, I met with her and talked about her desire to see the highway medians at the (south) entrance to town beautified so that intersection with Walton Creek Road becomes more attractive and safer,” her friend Kathy Connell said Friday.
Fox, who served on the city Planning Commission and City Council in the 1990s, had been living with a rare form of blood cancer, multiple myeloma. Both while she held public office and when she was in private life, Fox was known for being able to call out other elected officials publicly and at the same time win their admiration.
The City Council recognized her in November 2008 with the city’s Distinguished Service Award at a reception in Centennial Hall. It was significant that she had helped shepherd Centennial Hall into existence in 2000.
At that time, Fox was stunned to learn that the community had raised $20,000 and charged her with using the money to create the Carol Fox Garden at Yampa River Botanic Park, as well as annual flower containers at the Respite House.
Fox told the Steamboat Pilot & Today in 2008 that she wanted to create a garden of bright flowers — coreopsis, penstemon and cone flowers that would bloom in late summer.
The community honored her again in February 2009 with the Hazie Werner Award, which honors women of importance to the Yampa Valley each year.
Fox moved to Steamboat during the 1970s after her marriage ended while she was in her 40s. Her daughter, Kate Fox, said Friday that life here had a positive effect on her mother.
“Steamboat changed her, and much for the better,” Kate Fox said. “All of the friends she had here and all of the people who admired and loved her made her a more compassionate woman. She could be socially rigid, but she ditched that when she moved to Steamboat and kept the good stuff — her class.”
Carol Fox was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and graduated with a degree in English from Connecticut College.
Her ex-husband, Bayard, is a former CIA agent, and Carol at one time worked in a clerical position for the CIA. Bayard’s assignments meant they moved their family to cities such as Paris and Tehran, Iran.
Former City Councilwoman Paula Cooper Black said during her life in Steamboat, Carol Fox was known as a gourmet cook and a wine expert who loved to entertain friends.
The final weeks
She spent the last three weeks of her life in the Respite House, and her daughter said the care and the quality of life she experienced there meant a great deal to her family.
“In Mom’s case, it meant she got to spend her last three weeks in that beautiful home with a gathering of family and friends, where she had excellent care from people who respected her wishes, and we enjoyed fabulous meals,” Kate Fox said.
Cooper Black said she was out of town last week when Carol Fox left her a telephone message.
“She said, ‘When are you going to get over here so I can tell you about my latest plans?’” Cooper Black said.
She, Connell and Emily Seaver, of Yampa River Botanic Park, had been working closely with Fox on her gardens. Now, she had something new in mind.
“She was very interested in beautifying the entrance to Steamboat from Rabbit Ears Pass,” Connell said. “If not planting flowers in the median, then some kind of garden next to Casey’s Pond. She hoped it would slow people down and make the intersection at Walton Creek Road a little safer.”
Connell said that at one point in 2008, Fox had given up hope and had asked to be taken off chemotherapy.
“She was ready to call it quits, but I wasn’t willing to let my friend go,” Connell said.
She calculated that raising funds for a new garden, one of Fox’s loves, would give her a reason to carry on.
“Sure enough, it did,” Connell said.
She acknowledged that the public reception in Carol Fox’s honor provoked a healthy kind of anger in her, and Cooper Black said the fact that people had raised money on her behalf caused her some embarrassment.
“To tell you the truth, it pissed her off,” Kate Fox said. “But once it was there, she wanted to make sure it was done in the right Carol Fox kind of way.”
Connell knows the responsibility of spending the donations for the garden also helped Fox complete the last chapter of her life in a positive way.
“The gift it gave was not only that she got to plan a garden and plant it, but she was able to say goodbye.”
So, the last thing Carol Fox would want is for people to buy traditional floral arrangements as a memorial to her memory. But it probably wouldn’t upset her if people made further donations to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation in her name, to ensure that the flower containers at Rollingstone Respite House are refreshed each year. If there’s enough to maintain a new garden at the south entrance to town, that would be OK, too, Cooper Black said.
“I think Carol will continue to leave an indelible mark on the community,” she said.