Sarah Crawford Fox loved animals, chamber music and Barack Obama. She kept company with famous authors and almost never wore makeup.
She was fiercely true to her identity until her death a week ago.
A Columbia activist, former book editor and advocate for liberal causes, Fox died Jan. 3 after a lengthy illness, according to her son, Colin Travis Fox.
“She went her own way. She was a person who could really be herself, and I so much admire that,” said Beth Crawford, a longtime friend of Fox’s. Fox believed “you need to love (other people) for what they are and then try to be yourself and hope they’ll love you back.”
Fox, born in 1941 and raised in New York City’s Greenwich Village, would have celebrated her 76th birthday Thursday.
Before moving to Columbia in the 1970s, Fox was an editor at Fawcett Publications, where her work included helping edit books such as Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and John D. MacDonald’s “Travis McGee” series.
She was friends with Norah Ephron at Wellesley College and once dated Vonnegut, her son and friends said. In a biography of Vonnegut, “And So It Goes,” Fox is referred to as “the winsome editorial assistant Vonnegut had wooed briefly.”
Literature remained a theme in her life, as Fox married South Carolina novelist and short-story writer William Price Fox, who was the distinguished professor emeritus in the University of South Carolina’s Department of English Language and Literature before his death in 2015.
Their circle of friends included some of the era’s greatest writers.
Kit Smith, a friend who lived nearby, remembers going over to Fox’s house one day when their children were young and playing together. Fox invited Smith into her Hollywood-Rose Hill home to meet a visiting friend, who was none other than the famed author Tom Wolfe.
Smith didn’t realize who Wolfe was until she got home to find a spread about him in the newspaper. “I called Sarah and said don’t ever do that to me again,” Smith remembered with a laugh.
The Foxes moved to Columbia, William’s hometown, in 1974, not long after their older son, Wyatt, died of childhood cancer. The couple later divorced.
Sarah was “an acutely reluctant Southerner,” Colin Fox wrote in her obituary, but she “would come to love Columbia” and feel “blessed to call it home.”
Crawford remembers that she and Fox loved to go to Columbia’s “offbeat” restaurants and events, such as rap concerts and the UniverSoul Circus, where Fox “almost got us trampled by an elephant a time or two” because she wanted to sit on the front row.
Fox had “a glorious wit” and “brought that touch of all these worlds that many people in Columbia didn’t know about,” Crawford said.
Her son and friends described her as unabashedly liberal and forward-thinking.
Fox was an advocate for public schools, serving as chairwoman of the Citizens Council for S.C. Public Schools in the ’80s, and a strong supporter of the Democratic Party.
She ran unsuccessfully for Columbia City Council in 1983.
“She believed that government could help shape a community for the better,” Smith said. “It wasn’t just politics for bloodsport. It was really because she believed in the institution of government as a tool for good.”
Fox also was a “lifelong champion of lost causes,” her son wrote in her obituary, “such as keeping a lamb as a house pet.” His mother was “an animal lover of the highest possible order,” keeping golden retrievers and black labs as “household constants” and even spending several weeks working at an orangutan shelter in Borneo, her son wrote.
Fox leaves behind her son, Colin, and her beloved dog, Lily.
A memorial service will be held in early April by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine’s Gift-of-Body program.