BY GABRIELLE GUZ
Nearly 80 years after Police Officer Leon Fox was killed there in the line of duty, the corner of Surf Avenue and West 12th Street was co-named in his memory on Monday, July 15.
Around 100 local residents, police and city officials, friends and family members gathered to celebrate Fox’s life and legacy at a poignant ceremony at the intersection, moments before the unveiling of the street sign for “Leon Fox Way.”
In February 1941, Fox was escorting the manager of a Coney Island movie theater to the bank to deposit the day’s earnings. As they neared the bank, three men approached them and grabbed the manager’s suitcase. They fired at Fox at least six times, then got into their vehicle and drove away. Already seriously wounded, Fox shot at the suspects as they fled. He was later pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.
Fox served at the 60th Precinct for a decade.
“For several years now, we have planned and prepared for this day, understanding how important it is to present Police Officer Leon Fox’s story,” said City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, who represents the 48th Council District. “He would walk along Neptune Avenue, chatting with local residents who sat on their front stoops. He would visit shopkeepers in Brighton Beach to say hello and check on their business. He would even stop by local schools and say hello to the children, and inquired about how their studies were progressing. The man was known and loved by thousands of local residents, and it seemed inconceivable that he was gone.”
According to Deutsch, it was all Police Officer Albert Mammon’s idea to name the street after Officer Fox. When he was assigned to the 60th Precinct several years ago, Mammon learned of the tragic story and urged Deutsch to sponsor legislation to co-name the street in Fox’s honor.
Deutsch added, “Today is an important day for the Fox family, and it is also an important day for New York City. At a time when police officers are under so much scrutiny, when their every movement is questioned and controlled, it is so important that we show our respect and gratitude to the difficult job that they do each and every day.”
Leo Katz, a 92-year-old man who knew Fox as the man who kindly helped him cross the street everyday to P.S. 225, was one of the first to respond to the invitation that Deutsch sent out for the event. In an email to Deutsch, Katz referred to Fox as a “big brother” whose smile, warm greeting, care and friendship had a great impact on him.
“He knew every person on the street and each shopkeeper by name. It was obvious that Leon loved being a cop because he was outstanding,” Katz said at the ceremony.
Gerald Fox, who now lives in California and is Fox’s only son, was just seven years old when his dad perished.
“It was a terrible, terrible thing that happened to him,” Fox said. “I was told the truth at the time, and I went to his funeral.”
He said his mother remarried several times subsequently, and having died at age 96, she outlived all of her husbands, yet her love for his father was undying. Before her passing at a nursing home, she told Fox: “Remember your father. He was my first and only true love.”
Fox said that he has long developed a “special attachment” to police officers. “I am here to thank all them, who put their lives in jeopardy every time they go out,” he said.
After Mammon recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, the crowd walked over to the street corner to witness the unveiling of the sign.
“[Officer Fox] was known to be a good man and a good cop, who left a significant impact on his fellow Brooklynites,” said Deutsch. “That legacy will never be forgotten, and that street sign will make sure of it.”