Darrell Fox still remembers the lessons he learned from his mother Betty as he grew up in the family’s home in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Stand up for yourself. Fight for what you believe. Give generously.
They are lessons, says Darrell, that explain the way his brother Terry responded to a bone cancer diagnosis that took one of his legs in 1977, starting his iconic Marathon of Hope three years later.
And they are lessons that explain why Betty Fox, after her son’s death in 1981, fought to keep that marathon alive for more than three decades.
“We were taught early on to defend ourselves and to argue to the bitter end, whether we were right or wrong,” Darrell Fox recalled Saturday at a funeral for his mother in a small church not far from his childhood home.
“Mom enjoyed the act of giving, something Terry would take to another level,” he added later.
Betty Fox died earlier this month at the age of 73 of an undisclosed illness, leaving behind an international legacy that includes annual runs in her son’s name and a foundation that has raised more than half a billion dollars for cancer research.
Hundreds gathered at the church in Port Coquitlam, as well as at an overflow site at a nearby recreation centre, to celebrate Betty’s life – as both a tireless advocate and a caring wife, sister, mother and grandmother.
Her son Darrell remembered her mother taking care of Terry after his cancer diagnosis and as he prepared for his Marathon of Hope. Terry set off in April 1980 when he dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, N.L.
When his cancer returned, forcing him to end his marathon outside Thunder Bay, Ont., after 143 days and 5,400 kilometres, Betty again took on the role of caregiver.
The months that followed marked “a dark period and we lived in a dark house,” recalled Darrell.
But after Terry’s death on June 28, 1981, Betty turned her attention to preserving Terry’s mission – a mission Darrell said will carry on long after his mother’s death.
“Betty’s intuition was critical in protecting Terry’s vision ... protecting Terry’s grassroots ideals, rejecting the quick money of corporate sponsorship,” said Darrell.
“Life moves forward and so will we. Mom knew this also. [Her and Terry’s legacy] will be carried by those who will not rest until the Marathon of Hope reaches the Pacific Coast and cancer is defeated.”
Kirsten Fox, one of nine grandchildren, said Betty will always be a grandmother first – a caring, silly and sometimes serious woman who encouraged her family to hold onto their convictions.
“It’s hard to separate Betty Fox from the identity of Terry Fox’s mother, but we grandkids never thought of her that way,” said Kirsten, who had asked Betty’s other grandchildren how each of them will remember Betty.
“None of us said, ‘She raised a hero.’ We think of her as grandma,” said Kirsten.
“I’m going to miss grandma’s voice, I’m going to miss her beautiful smile. We’re all going to miss her,” Kirsten said, breaking down in tears. “Thank you for all you’ve given us.”
Rick Hansen, a Paralympian whose friendship with Terry motivated his own Man In Motion tour, said Betty inspired him for the same reasons she inspired so many Canadians, thousands of whom have sent the Fox family messages of support since her death.
“She fulfilled [Terry’s] wishes. The integrity with which she’s kept Terry’s dream alive has been amazing. You can see his legacy all around the world because of her,” Mr. Hansen told reporters after the funeral.
“Being at the annual Terry Fox Runs in Port Coquitlam and seeing her as a loving and beautiful mother who would never let that dream die and inspiring all of us to continue, that’s something that will always be with me.”
Also in attendance were B.C. Premier Christy Clark and former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong, along with several other politicians from the region.
Three months after Terry’s death, about 300,000 people at more than 760 sites across Canada participated in the first Terry Fox Run, raising $3.5-million.
In 1988, Betty and Darrell set up the Terry Fox Foundation, which has so far raised more than $550-million for cancer research in 28 countries through annual Terry Fox Runs.
The Terry Fox Hall of Fame opened in Toronto in 1994 to recognize Canadians who have enhanced or assisted the lives of people living with physical disabilities.
And the Terry Fox Research Institute opened in 2007, helping cancer hospitals and researchers collaborate.