BIOGRAPHY OF RULON JOSEPH FOX
Compiled by Russell Felt, Nephew
Contributions by Renie Felt Kopinsky, Richard (Dick) and Russ Felt
Edited by Dayleen Felt
Renie, Dick, and Russ Felt have always considered that they had two mothers and two fathers. Uncle Rulon (Unc) was their second father. We grew up helping him with his farm work and enjoying our association with him. He loved us. He was interested in each of us. He disciplined us (usually by escorting us to the house by the nape of the neck or by the ear). He spoke at each of our missionary farewells. He continually received updates from Melba, our mother, about our missions and about our lives when we moved away from Lehi. We are greatly indebted to this good man and his influence upon us.
Rulon Joseph Fox was born 4 November 1899 in Lehi, Utah, to Isaac and Lucy Hartley Fox. He was the third of four children born to Isaac and Lucy. The other children were Harold, Melba, and Norine. He married Areva (Aunt Reva) Goates 22 September 1943 in the Salt Lake Temple. He died in his home in Lehi of cancer 28 September 1995. Unc’s goal was to live to be 101 years old so that he could say he lived in three decades--1800, 1900, and 2000. He did not quite achieve that goal.
His father, Isaac Fox, was married three times in succession. After his first wife Christiana Gaddi Fox died in childbirth, he married Elizabeth Zimmerman Fox, who also died during childbirth. Lucy Hartley Fox was his third wife and Rulon’s mother. Isaac fathered a total of nine children. All the half brothers and sisters were very close and loved each other very much. Rulon grew up farming with his father, Isaac. The farm was small but provided a modest living for the family. There were many mouths to feed, and the farm provided almost all the food the family needed.
It is not known in which house in Lehi Rulon was born. In all probability, it was in one of the two houses where the family first lived near the center of town. Norine was the only child born at the third, and permanent, home located at 531 West Main Street, Lehi.
Rulon attended public school in Lehi. He had a lot of energy and a certain mischievous nature. On one occasion at elementary school, Rulon misbehaved, and it was serious enough to the teacher that she took him by the scruff of the neck and walked him home after school. It was reported that as she drug him along he held on to the fences trying to avoid the inevitable awaiting him at home. Lucy, his mother, said some things privately to the teacher about over reacting, but then gave him a “licking” for not doing as instructed.
Rulon loved athletics. He played basketball for Lehi High School and many other sports as well. He was athletic, strong, quick, and loved to compete.
Melba, his older sister, was always Rulon’s protection. Once his parents feared he and Melba had run away from home. He had done something and feared discipline, so he and Melba hid. They got under the bed and fell asleep. There were anxious moments as the family called and searched for the missing children.
Rulon and Melba Fox
Rulon and his brother Harold delighted in teasing Aunt Christie Russell’s children. Their cousins, Melbourne (Mellie) and Walton (Mun) were targets. On one occasion, “Mun” let the boys cut his hair. Harold and Rulon got into considerable trouble for the style they gave him.
One Christmas morning, Harold and Rulon came downstairs too early and caught Santa Claus delivering gifts. Santa was offended at that and booted the boys back up the stairs. It was rumored that Santa came back much later with the gifts, however. The boys strongly believed in Santa Claus (Father Isaac) after that experience!
Rulon loved to spy on visitors. He had a hiding place under a couch to observe what he could observe. He was not a little boy when he did that. His favorite person to spy on was Harold, especially when a girl was with him.
Rulon enrolled at BYU and attended as long as he could afford to go. To pay his educational expenses, he worked at both the West Jordan Sugar Factory and the Lehi Sugar Factory. He would work and then attend a quarter of school and then work some more. It was his dream to be a meteorologist or chemistry teacher. Before he could complete that goal, his father died and he had to run the farm to support his mother and his sisters, Norine and Melba.
Rulon Joseph Fox
The farm property belonging to Unc included the milk barn, stack yard, and some pasture and cropland located from about 531 West Main south to 400 south in Lehi. Meadow Elementary currently stands on the former pasture and cropland. Rulon owned fourteen acres at the New Survey near the Jordan River (next to Willow Park and on a horseshoe bend of the river). After a while, he expanded the farm operation from cash crops to a dairy farm. When he did so, he purchased the Harrison property, ten acres (where Russ now lives), at 1700 West 750 South in Lehi, to provide feed for his cows. Rulon owned a total of approximately fifty-eight acres. A small farmer like that can no longer survive in today’s economy. He milked approximately thirty cows and raised most of his own feed.
One year was extremely dry and there was no irrigation water. He allowed Canadian Thistle to grow on his land, cut it with his mower, allowed it to dry to let the needles drop, and then harvested it to feed the six cows left in his herd that one winter. Better weather the next year allowed him to rebuild the herd.
Uncle Rulon worked hard. He worked long days. He started milking precisely at 6:30 a.m. each day. Milking times were precise or milk production was affected. He would milk, then do farm work, and then have lunch at the appointed time. He followed lunch by taking a short nap--either elbows on the table and hands under his chin or sitting in a chair. At 1:00 p.m. he returned to work. At 5:30 p.m. he would commence milking again. He would head for home after the cows were fed, about 7:30 p.m. Unc knew how to work. During hay hauling, Dick would get impatient waiting for Unc to return to work and would wander off somewhere, usually to play at the Rodeo Grounds. Unc knew right where to look and would go after him.
Rulon was 41 years of age and Aunt Reva was nearly that age when they were married. They married beyond childbearing years. They attempted to adopt a family but were rejected because they were considered too old. Renie, Dick and Russ benefited from that rejection and became the beneficiaries of his fatherly influence. The three truly had two dads and two mothers--the other mother being Aunt Norine.
Dick said he learned how to drive with Unc, either on the tractor or in his old Ford coupe. Once, Dick was driving near Lillie Zimmerman’s home (west of Lehi), and someone pulled out in front of him. Instead of hitting the brakes, he hit the gas and they nearly collided. Several generations learned how to drive under Unc’s tutelage (on the roads and in the fields). Renie, Dick and Russ were each delegated at various times to take the coupe to the Stewart Feed Mill (the Evans brothers also owned it; it burned in a fire in recent years) to get sacks of grain. They were loaded on the hood, running boards, trunk, fenders, and in the back seat. The driver would then inch back to the feed room so as not to lose any grain.
Renie and Mike lived in Melvin Anderson’s apartment next to Unc and Aunt Reva. Gary, the oldest Kopinsky boy, would go over to their house for breakfast. Aunt Reva cooked bacon and eggs. Bacon grease got into the eggs and speckled the eggs. Gary was not sure what was in the eggs and was asked how he liked breakfast. He said it was “okay once you got used to it.” He didn’t like what else was in the eggs. Unc and Aunt Reva so enjoyed that comment that Gary’s statement was often quoted. Gary would then ride on the tractor with Unc to the farm.
Uncle Rulon and Aunt Reva did like to travel. There was an eighteen-year period of time however, that he did not miss a milking. He just would not trust his cows to anyone. Once they traveled and left Uncle Harold with the cows (the only one he would trust). They were to be gone for a week but returned after three days. He just couldn’t stand to be away any longer from his responsibilities. On one trip, Uncle Rulon and Aunt Reva, Vern and Lexie Whipple, and Lucille Webb traveled to church history sites, including Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Missouri. While there, they were intrigued that busloads of General Authorities disembarked for some purpose the five never learned. They loved to travel with the Whipples and with Lucille Webb.
Uncle Rulon said that he and Aunt Reva had never had an argument anywhere, including in their home. When quizzed about how they accomplished that, he simply said that when there was a disagreement, they would go for a walk until the issue was resolved. How many people could make that statement?
Unc possessed the ability to forecast the weather. That ability served him well in farming. If clouds appeared just north of the Lake Mountains, he predicted rain was on its way. If clouds appeared anywhere else, he predicted the storm would blow by Lehi. He also knew when the seasonal storms came. With that knowledge, he continually pressed to have his planting done prior to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ fall general conference (the first weekend in October). He said that in 50 years there was only one occasion when it did not rain conference weekend. He never planted corn prior to May 10. Planting it any earlier might result in a frost killing the plants.
An example of his precise forecasting occurred when Renie and Dick were in their teens. He had two workhorses, “Dick” and “Bess”; and Renie had two riding horses. The horses were grazing at the New Survey property two miles west of Lehi. There were snowdrifts already along the road. Back at the Felt home, Unc looked up at the sky and announced that a big storm was coming and that the horses needed to be brought up to the stable. So Charlie drove his children, Renie and Dick, down to the New Survey in the car so they could get the horses, and then he returned home. Renie and Dick led the horses out of the snowy lane to the main road, climbed onto the riding horses, and led the work horses, with twin colts following their mother. No sooner had they done so than a blizzard (whiteout) started. Alerted by the blizzard, Charlie and Rulon drove back to assist Renie and Dick, who were half frozen by the time they all got back to the stable. [With the horses or without?] They had to be physically carried into the house to thaw. Just as Rulon had forecast, the storm came with ferocity.
Rulon, Evans Anderson, Delbert Norman, Mr. Jones, and others banded together to help each other with crop production and harvesting. One would run the corn chopper and two would haul the chopped corn to the silos (pits in the ground). Later, several men would fork the silage into the chopper and the chopped corn would be blown through a pipe into an upright cement silo. Renie, Dick, and Russ, as children, would tromp the silage or ride the horse for the hay derrick. The three also forked hay onto wagons before hay balers existed. A Jackson forklifted the hay from the wagons onto the stack. The fork was hung from a derrick pole and a rope strung through pulleys was pulled by one of the horses. In this manner, the hay was lifted onto the stack. The stacker moved loose hay around the stack to insure its integrity, and the hay was spread with salt to cure it. It was labor-intensive work. Balers later simplified the process.
In the early years, a horse-drawn mower was used to cut hay. It was then raked into windrows with a horse drawn buck rake (the rake is at Renie’s property). The hay was dried for a few days, then forked on the wagon and taken to the stack yard. Hay was considered properly dried when three twists of a handful would break. The hay was then dry enough to not mildew and yet wet enough to retain the leaves.
In addition to hay, Rulon grew and harvested peas. They were harvested at night and moved by wagon to the pea viners. On one occasion, someone irrigated and flooded the field, so the wagonload of peas became stuck fast in the mud. Rulon took this opportunity to teach Renie how to get the workhorses to pull together to free the wagon. He often taught farming principles to his three “adopted children.”
On one occasion, Unc and his “helpers,” Renie, Dick, Lee Fox, and others, were at the Harrison piece of property loading hay wagons with pitchforks. Lee stomped on the field mice that were always under the hay. Somehow a mouse ran up Lee’s pant leg, and Lee started to run around the field to escape the interloper. Then he started to run for home, two miles away. Everyone laughed and enjoyed the scene. As Unc told the story, Lee repeatedly yelled, “Yow, Yow, Yow,” as he ran. Finally, Unc ran him down several hundred feet away just as the mouse appeared coming out his shirt collar!
Rulon worked well with animals, and instigated horse pulling contests at the Lehi Fair. Rulon always won because he knew how to work the horses to get the maximum from them. Rulon used his horses to excavate the foundation area of the Lehi First Ward Church.
There was quicksand in the pasture section of the New Survey property. Once he found a horse floundering in the quicksand, put a rope around its neck, and barely pulled it out in time to save its life.
Unc was patient and calm with his animals (and with people, too). He was able to work with the cows without stirring them up, which negatively affected milk production. Unc would train heifers, shortly before they calved, how to get into the milk barn and into the assigned stall with the correct string. This was not a small undertaking. Russ was hired for $2 per week to feed the calves. He made pets of many of them, and made a pet of “Joey,” a large Holstein Heifer. He could simply put his arm around her neck and walk into the barn with her. It was done without Unc being on the other end pushing and prodding to get the animal to move. That was easy. Russ had also taught the cow to put her nose under someone’s bottom and, with a pull of a tuft of hair on the forehead, lift a person off the ground. One day, Uncle Eli Fox was visiting and talking to Renie and Uncle Rulon as they leaned on the corral fence. Joey went up behind Unc and started to lick his pants. Unc reached back and touched Joey’s forehead and was lifted nearly over the fence! Uncle Eli nearly died laughing. Unc didn’t. Russ was nearly fired over that.
Unc never used coarse or vulgar language. His worst epitaph was “Dog-gone-your picture.” The cows understood when to enter the barn to be milked and even which stall they were assigned to. He usually milked three stalls. For a long period of time, he even had the entire herd trained to know where each was to stand at the outside manger. To train them, he used a buggy whip to remind any errant cow to get into its assigned place. That exercise was punctuated with an occasional “Dog-gone-your picture.”
Rulon supplemented his seasonal farming income with winter work. The Jordan River was at low level during the winter but not completely dry. Rulon ran a team with a scrapper through the riverbed and up the other side. [What for? To channel out the river?] In doing so, he would be chest deep in cold water. But flammable material in fifty-gallon drums was burned on the riverbank to offer warmth after the drenching from the cold water.
When Unc was 91 and 93 years of age, he had each of his knees replaced. Those surgeries improved his mobility and reduced the pain in those bone-on-bone joints. The surgeries came with a cost--he had to recuperate at Aunt Norine’s house! Now they loved each other, make no mistake about that, but they also loved to debate issues. Each was too stubborn to admit error. When the recuperation period had ended, he was ready to be on his own again. Russ was scheduled to go to Aunt Norine’s at a precise time to give Unc a ride home. Russ was fifteen minutes late getting there, and Unc was gone! Unc was found, several blocks away, near the Lane Downs home, walking. He was not going to spend one minute longer than absolutely necessary in the clutches of Aunt Norine. He was going home now.
Unc was a modest man, but did not think that Aunt Norine was modest because while he stayed with her she ran around her house in a slip or housecoat. He would say, “Doog,” a nickname for Aunt Norine and short for Dugenberry, (whatever that meant) “You need to get dressed!”
Fiercely independent, Unc did allow Renie and Rita to clean his home from time to time. He was more than 90 years old when he finally allowed the help.
Rulon loved to sing. He sang in choruses. He directed choruses. He sang with Evans Anderson and others in a quartet. He performed with choruses in high school and at BYU. Rulon, Melba, Harold and Norine would often sing in Norine’s home. Two tenors and two altos must have been interesting.
Rulon was a counselor in the Lehi First Ward Bishopric. He served with Bishop Evans L. Anderson. His responsibility was the youth programs. Rulon was active in the Church all of his life.
Unc loved temple work. He served 18 years at the Provo Temple and loved every moment of it. When fellow workers at the temple learned he had to retire due to health problems, they all signed a card thanking him and it was sent with his honorable release. Russ has both documents. He said he was in his white suit one day at the Provo Temple supervising baptisms. He said that he saw a man dressed in white standing on the other side of the room. Unc studied the man for some time until he got tired and decided to sit down. He saw the man on the other side of the room sit down, too. Then he realized he had been looking in a mirror! He said it was almost a spiritual experience because Unc had a remarkable resemblance to President Spencer W. Kimball and could be mistaken for him.
As demonstrated throughout this biography, Unc had a sense of humor. After a Sunday dinner at Renie’s home, her husband Mike Kopinsky (portly) was asleep on the floor in front of the television. Unc, surveying that scene, observed that Mike “looked like a bloated cow.”
Later in his life, occasionally he would make a noise from his trousers. With a wry smile, he would turn and say, “Sounds better now that it is tuned.”
Shortly before his mother, Lucy Hartley Fox, died and without any other family member knowing, she asked to talk to Unc. She requested that if he ever sold the farm that he share the proceeds of the sale with Uncle Harold, Melba, and Norine. No one else knew of the conversation. Unc was a man of his word and saw to it that each received some money when he sold the farm and retired. The portion given to Melba’s family was used to bury her. He also gave Renie and Russ some land and he gave Dick some money.
Rulon Fox kept his word. His word was his bond. A handshake culminated a business transaction. Once, a neighbor agreed to sell some adjoining farm property to Unc. The price was agreed upon at $200 per acre and the two men shook hands (shaking hands with Unc was a binding contract). Another man offered the neighbor $400 per acre and he sold the land to him instead. Unc was not upset that he didn’t get the land, but he was upset that the owner agreed to sell it to him and then reneged on his promise when offered a higher price.
After his retirement, Unc supervised all plantings done by Renie and Russ. He did not hesitate to make needed corrections. Once, at 95 yrs of age, he observed Russ cultivating corn with the tractor. He stopped his car, tottered up the field, and suggested widening the cultivators, since there was “cultivator blight” occurring. Russ was digging up the corn! On another occasion, he said that he had taught Russ everything he could about farming, but it “didn’t appear to do any good.”
Among many spiritual gifts that he possessed, Unc possessed the gift of healing. On one occasion when Aunt Reva needed surgery, he fully fasted for several days to prepare him to give her a blessing, and the surgery went well as planned. On another occasion, Russ assisted Unc when he administered to Curtis, Dick’s son. Curtis was about two years old and had a dangerously high temperature. Following the blessing and ice baths administered at the hospital, the toddler returned to normal health.
Aunt Reva died at a ward banquet. She simply put her head on his shoulder and was quickly and quietly gone. After he had recovered from her loss, we humorously extended the thought that it was imperative for her to go quickly before he could do anything about it--meaning give her a healing priesthood blessing. She had to beat him out of this world.
After Aunt Reva passed away, Rulon spent much of his time with his “adopted children,” Renie, Dick, and Russ. He annually watched Fourth of July fireworks from either Renie’s or Russ’s house. He always had Sunday dinner with Renie’s family.
During their married life Unc and Aunt Reva lived in her family home at 144 West 400 South in Lehi. They agreed that after they were gone, the house and lot were to go to her family. Unc outlived all the immediate relatives who would have shared in the inheritance. He concluded that if he kept that agreement there were so many beyond that immediate group to divide it among that no one would end up getting anything. He decided that Aunt Reva would agree that the home and property should be donated to the Missionary Department of the Church. Consequently, Russ was instructed by Rulon to deed everything to the Missionary Department after he died and if he did not do it, Unc would” find a way to come back and straighten things out.” Obedient to that instruction, Russ deeded the home and property to the Missionary Department and then purchased it back from the Church.
Russ was with Rulon when the doctor told him he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. He had to decide whether to have chemotherapy or not. He decided instantly not to prolong his life for weeks and declined the therapy. He asked if it was possible to remain at home until it was over. His family took turns staying with him in his home.
About ten days prior to his death and during a time when he was heavily medicated and sleeping most of the time and when he was not eating or drinking anything, Russ, Rita, Aunt Norine and Renie were in his living room on a “shift” change. Hearing him stir in his bed, Russ went into his room and used a little folding chair to sit near his pillow. He asked Rulon what he needed. Surprisingly, Rulon reached over and put his hands on Russ’s head and gave him a priesthood blessing that was technically correct. It was a blessing of peace and comfort and joy and appreciation for the love shown him. Hearing his words from the other room, everyone came into the room. Rulon reached over and placed his hands on Renie’s arms, which was as far as he could reach, and gave her a similar blessing. He then prayed a blessing on Dick’s family. When he finished he went back to sleep. This was a man who wanted the cup to pass; he wanted to be with Reva. His gesture of blessing each of us was his way of making sure we were going to be all right after he was gone and was evidence of the responsibility he felt towards us. Rulon Joseph Fox had the gift of healing and the great faith needed to exercise it, and he exercised it in our behalf. It was a special spiritual experience for them.
Michael and John Kopinsky and Russ were with Unc in his home and were at his bedside as he passed away. He looked up and smiled, and there was no question in our minds that Aunt Reva was there to escort him to the other side.
Uncle Rulon Fox was a quiet man. He was of service to his fellowmen but never sought publicity or the accolades of men. He didn’t make the headlines. Renie observed that he was like the Master who fed the masses with loaves and fishes. He touched many people. A writer once said that the “masses of men lead quiet lives of desperation.”
Rulon Joseph Fox led a quiet life, but not one of desperation. If anything, he calmed the desperation of others. He touched our lives with his serenity, even temper, steadiness, and quiet dignity. It was his legacy, and he meant something wonderful to us.
Rulon, standing on left