Cancer research crusader Betty Fox dies

Betty Fox, who created the Terry Fox Foundation to raise money for cancer research after the 1981 death of her son, has died.

Mother of Terry Fox made his 'Marathon of Hope' dream a reality

Betty Fox, the mother of cancer research icon Terry Fox, has died.

A news release from the Terry Fox Foundation, which she helmed for 30 years, said she "passed away peacefully surrounded by love" on Friday morning.

Fox, who was in her early 70s, was being cared for at a hospice in Chilliwack, B.C., during the final weeks of her life.

"We have greatly appreciated the privacy granted to our family since Betty's illness was shared and are hoping it continues at this difficult time," the Fox family said in statement.

Reactions pour in

B.C. Premier Christy Clark referred to Betty Fox as a "great Canadian" who "embodied all the qualities that as British Columbians we admire."

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix said "from Terry's Marathon of Hope to expanding his legacy through the Terry Fox Foundation, Betty always carried herself with quiet determination and dignity."

Rick Hansen, Canada's Man in Motion, said Betty Fox was a "remarkable woman, who will be sorely missed. Her enthusiasm and compassion were infectious, and her tireless dedication to pursuing Terry's dream inspired millions to believe in a world without cancer."

Heritage Minister James Moore said Betty Fox was a "pillar of support" for her son during his cross-Canada run and that she continued the spirit of Terry's fight against cancer.

As a young bone cancer survivor with an artificial leg, Terry Fox won hearts with his run across Canada to raise money and awareness about the disease. His goal was to persuade every Canadian to donate one dollar to the cause.

His 1980 "Marathon of Hope" was halted near Thunder Bay, Ont., as he suffered a recurrence of the disease.

Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981, but not before becoming, at that time, the youngest person ever to be awarded the Order of Canada.
Betty Fox on a 2000 visit to the statue of her son Terry that is situated below Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Betty and her other son, Darrell, set up and ran the Terry Fox Foundation following his death, raising more than $550 million for cancer research in 28 countries through the foundation's annual Terry Fox Runs. The first run was held on  Sept. 13, 1981.

Betty Fox quit her job in order to travel the world, listen to the stories of other cancer sufferers and advocate on her son's behalf for increased research funding.  

In 2007, Fox had her hair shorn during the Fox Family Head Shave, the opening event of the Terry Fox at Work Day fundraising initiative.  

Betty Fox was chosen as one of the Canadian flag bearers in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  

Recently, Fox had been working with Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland on a project to redesign the memorial to her son outside BC Place in downtown Vancouver.  

The tile archway that was erected in the early 1980s is being replaced with a memorial that will include four bronze statues of the one-legged runner from Port Coquitlam, B.C. The sculptures will show Terry Fox's signature hop-and-run style in stop-action steps.  

On June 3, media reports suggested that Betty Fox was suffering from cancer.

But a statement released by the Terry Fox Foundation later that day clarified that she was seriously ill, but not with cancer.  

She is survived by her husband, Rolly, and her children Darrell, Fred and Judy.