| Lynn Fox, senior building maintenance worker at Black Hills State University, is undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The University staff donated leave time, money and other items to help offset the mounting travel and medical expenses.
| Lynn Fox's craftsmanship is seen throughout the BHSU campus including this handcrafted conference table for the Executive Conference Room.
| Fox loves spending time in the outdoors especially fishing with his longtime girlfriend Laura La Porte.
Every building on the Black Hills State University campus features some aspect of Lynn Fox’s craftsmanship, his meticulous attention to detail and knack for aesthetic designs. For 13 years, Fox has contributed his talents to BHSU and now the University is giving something back.
In September, Fox was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for treatment, must undergo chemotherapy every other Friday and will return to Rochester for surgery as soon as the size of his tumor shrinks.
To help offset the mounting travel and medical expenses, the University, coordinated by the Facilities Services Office, placed collection jars around campus and held a silent auction with people donating a variety of items from faculty and staff art, photographs and jewelry to tree services and other items.
Employees were also able to donate their leave time to Fox. So far, the University-wide effort has raised more than $5,000 with six months of leave donated.
“I am flabbergasted at the auction and the amount of people who responded to it,” Fox said noting that he feels lucky to be part of the close-knit BHSU community. “I feel this is one big family.”
His longtime girlfriend Laura La Porte agreed.
“We really feel the love and support; it really means the world to both of us,” she said.
Fox said he started to feel that something was wrong this summer during an excursion where he and Laura followed Gen. George Custer’s exact route through the Black Hills. “I was having some abdominal pain.” Aside from his pancreatic cancer, Fox also has metastatic stage 3 melanoma that started with a spot on the bottom of his foot 10 years ago. The doctors cannot treat the two cancers simultaneously, so Fox must first battle his pancreatic cancer. He was also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes several years ago.
Fox was born and raised in Lead/Deadwood and worked as a logger for the sawmill until it burnt down in 1979. He moved to Colorado where he learned the art of cabinetry from some European craftsmen, including one Hungarian who used no nails and screws.
After spending time Colorado honing his woodworking skills, Fox moved back to South Dakota searching for a place where he could share his handyman talents. He came across an opening at BHSU and has been with the University ever since. Although he started off patching holes and performing other maintenance work, Art Jones, director of Facilities Services, and Randy Culver, associate director of Facilities Services, soon discovered Fox’s talent for custom building.
Fox has built many beautiful wood structures for BHSU including the tables in the President’s Office and the Executive Conference Room, and the University’s ceremonial mace. Trying to incorporate historic elements and be sustainable whenever possible, Fox used wood salvaged from the bleachers in the former Cook Gymnasium for many of the handcrafted pieces seen around campus, according to Culver.
Aside from his job as senior building maintenance worker, Fox has taken on another title during his years at the University – animal relocation officer. Whenever animals and other creatures such as bats, mice, or moles make their way into the walls, windows or doors of campus buildings, Fox builds traps to capture and then relocate them.
“He’s our own animal control officer,” Culver said.
Fox is always willing to lend his talents and innovative mind to assist anyone, Jeanne Hanson, Facilities Services business manager, added. Something Fox says comes from his joy of helping people. “I couldn’t think of working anywhere else in South Dakota except for here,” he said. “I have fun with the faculty, staff and students.”
The chemotherapy has been rough on Fox who is known for his energy and vitality, and who barely winced at injuries sustained from woodworking. “This chemo is really knocking me to my knees.”
However, Fox does not seem to miss a beat. At a recent visit to campus, he gently smoothed his hand across a wooden table in Woodburn Hall making sure no imperfections peered through.
He misses his woodworking.
His sister recently gave him a model ship to construct – something that has kept his hands busy and his mind occupied.
However, Fox hopes to return to BHSU as soon as possible and resume his duties as maintenance worker, custom builder, and animal control officer. Until then, he will continue his fight - a fight made easier with the support of his University family.
“Lynn has benefitted from this effort but so has our department because we came together as a team,” Hanson said. “The University community really stepped up to the plate; many people walked in and gave money. It really brought to face how important the University is to each and every one of us and how important we are to the University.”
Both La Porte and Fox thanked everyone who helped with the auction, donated items and placed bids, and the continued prayers and good thoughts.
Donations are still being accepted at the Northern Hills Federal Credit Union in Spearfish or can be dropped off at Facilities Services.