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Jack Fox of La Grande plays guitar during a performance last week at the Union County Senior Center. Fox shows no signs of slowing down, even into his 90s, performing with his band, ‘The Blue Mountaineers,’ several times each week. When Fox is not playing for the Blue Mountaineers he often can be found preaching and leading Bible studies at churches and assisted living centers. Chris Baxter/The Observer
by Dick Mason/The Observer
He stopped calling square dances years ago but today there is no stopping this 92-year-old wonder. Meet Jack Fox of La Grande, a man adept at slowing the sands of time to a trickle and putting a spring into the steps of others.
Fox is a member of the Blue Mountaineers, an old-time country western band, which brings people to their feet at events throughout Union County.
Playing numbers ranging from “One at a Time” to “Crystal Chandeliers,” the popular band provides music for seniors and people of all ages to dance to. Nobody is more important to the band’s success than Fox, its lead vocalist and a guitar player. Fox always answers the call to play in a big way, said band member Denny Langford of Union.
“He’s a regular iron man-superman. He goes the extra mile, he plays at everything,” said Langford, a fiddle player, after a performance by the Blue Mountaineers at the Union County Senior Center.
Langford said Fox is usually ready to play at a moment’s notice. Langford made this point colorfully by adding a twist to a famous lyric from the song “Orange Colored Sky” which the late Nat King Cole made famous.
“Flash bam alakazam,” Langford said, quoting the song lyrics. “Jack’s ready to roll. He’s got everything but the cape.”
Fox and the Blue Mountaineers have a full itinerary throughout the year. The Blue Mountaineers play every Tuesday at Wildflower Lodge, each Tuesday and Wednesday at the Union County Senior Center, the third Tuesday of each month at the Grande Ronde Retirement Residence, the third Tuesday of every month at Vista Specialty Care, the third Friday of each month at the Cove Baptist Church and the last Saturday of each month at a three-hour community dance at the Union County Senior Center. The band also plays at weddings and birthdays.
Following a performance by the Blue Mountaineers, Fox appears anything but winded and in need of anything but a rest.
“He’s like that energizer rabbit, he keeps going and going. His battery is always charged,” Langford said.
Fox, who grew up in Iowa and later worked for The Boeing company for many years, moved to Cove from Barstow, Calif., with his wife, Sandee, in 1990. Jack and Sandee have lived in
Jack Fox was a square-dance caller for many years before moving to Northeast Oregon.
Sandee Fox does not see her husband stepping down as a member of the Blue Mountaineers anytime soon.
“His music is what keeps him young,” she said.
Jack Fox said the opportunity to play with the Blue Mountaineers is one he cherishes because he enjoys music and the chance to be in the company of other players.
“I like playing and singing and any musician likes an audience,” Fox said.
When Fox is not playing for the Blue Mountaineers he is anything but idle. He often can be found preaching and leading Bible studies at churches and assisted living centers.
Ray Omohundro, who plays the electric bass for the Blue Mountaineers, said Fox is a key member of the group because of his strong voice and rhythm. The latter is exceptional for someone in his 90s.
“People at his age normally do not have the rhythm he does,” said Omohundro.
Omohundro is one of five members of the Blue Mountaineers. He, Fox and Langford are joined by talented performers Nancy Bruce, a fiddle and guitar player, and Jan Kelley, a pianist. They and all members of the Blue Mountaineers enjoy talking about what Fox adds to their band and the community.
Omohundro said he has long been struck by the empathy Fox has for others, noting that he has often played music alone at retirement and assisted care centers to brighten the days of people facing challenges.
“I have nothing but praise for the man,” Omohundro said. “He is an inspiration to life itself.”