A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox
World traveler, Art collector, Socialite, Business woman, Benefactor. These titles describe Josephine Clardy Fox, a fixture in the social and financial world for decades in El Paso and the woman who made sure that the names “Clardy” and “Fox” would be familiar to El Pasoans for a long time. Today, not so many people know much about the woman who grew up in the Southwest, but was well known in New York, San Francisco, London and other big cities, a woman who made a huge impact on the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) without ever attending it and on the community that was enhanced by her wealth and philanthropic contributions.
Josephine Clardy was born Aug. 13, 1881, to Allie Davis and Zeno B. Clardy. Young Josephine Clardy attended a parochial school until 1891, when se entered the public school system, attending Mesa School for the fourth grade. She remained in the public schools until 1895. She then attended finishing school at Hosmer Hall in St. Louis where she quickly developed a love of drama and music, interests which fueled her passion for the arts throughout her life.
In the spring of 1901, Josephine returned to El Paso with her father. A few day later, her father died after suffering a heart attack. That fall, with the encouragement of her mother, Josephine went to Berkeley, CA to study music.
Josephine Clardy was a tall, beautiful, vibrant, wealthy, and, by some accounts, a spoiled young woman. A hard working, handsome railroad executive, Eugene Emmett Fox maintained a close relationship until the two married in Jan. 20, 1916, in New York. The couple settled in El Paso at a house located at 1119 Montana Ave. During the Depression, however, the couple suffered financial hardships caused by the weak economy. She and her mother struggled to pay the taxes on their property. Her husband died in 1934 and six years later her mother died.
In the 1940’s a new man would come into her life whose financial expertise would greatly add to her wealth. He orchestrated the sale of some of Josephine’s land for a shopping center, a post office and housing developments.
The Clardy-Fox Additions were tracts of land that had been used to grow cotton in the Lower Valley. The land was to build homes during the boom after World War II. In 1955, Josephine sold 21 acres to be developed into the Fox Plaza Shopping Center which officially opened on July of 1959. Land on Paisano and Cortez Streets was sold for a new post office occurring on May of 1961, which is now the home of the Housing Authority.
In 1956, Josephine donated land to the Board of Trustees of the El Paso Independent School District for a school to be located at 5508 Delta Dr. that would be named in honor of her mother, Allie D. Clardy. In 1961, she gave land on Lisbon Street for a branch library named in her honor.
Josephine Clardy Fox died on May 11, 1970 at Providence Memorial Hospital. She was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso. After her death, it was discovered that she had left the majority of her estate, valued at over three million dollars at the time, to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) . No restrictions were put on the disbursement of the funds but her only request was for $20,000 to be set aside for a scholarship fund and $2,500 for a student loan fund. Along with her monetary donation, she also left her possessions to the university.
The contributions that Josephine Clardy Fox gave to the city can still be seen today. The library and school are testaments to the enduring memory of the Clardy Fox family. Fox Plaza remains a neighborhood shopping center, and UTEP continues to benefit from the revenues of her endowment..
Josephine Clardy Fox lived an unorthodox life in many ways, but she did it “her Way,” enriching the lives around her and contributing to the community and city she called home.