Betty Fox dies 31 years after son set out on Marathon of Hope

Betty Fox, the mother of one of Canada’s most beloved heroes, who nurtured Terry Fox’s legacy into one of international action and inspiration in the fight against cancer, has died.

VANCOUVER — Betty Fox, the mother of one of Canada’s most beloved heroes, who nurtured Terry Fox’s legacy into one of international action and inspiration in the fight against cancer, has died.

Her family said at the beginning of June that Fox was seriously ill and in a hospice, though their statement said reports she was suffering from cancer were incorrect.

On Friday morning, the family posted a notice on the Terry Fox Foundation website saying she had died a few hours earlier.

“Betty/Mom passed away peacefully, surrounded by love,” the family said.

“Betty was comfortable in the last few weeks and months of her life, was always full of wit and rarely alone. Betty is now with Terry and joins other dear family members that predeceased her.” The family did not plan to speak further Friday.

For more than three decades, Betty Fox kept her son’s cancer-fighting legacy alive by organizing runs, raising funds and playing a role in the opening of a foundation and research institute.

Peter Goodhand, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, said Fox will always be remembered for her strong commitment to her son’s legacy.

“She was a relentless champion for Terry’s dream and she steadfastly pursued Terry’s goal of finding a cure for cancer. She was an inspiration to all of us and she will be greatly missed.”

Fred Tinck, Terry Fox’s high school running coach, also praised Fox for her hard work.

“She has been such an incredible ambassador for the legacy that her son left behind and also an incredible ambassador for the work that Terry started for it to continue,” Tinck said.

“I mean, when you think about the fact that Terry’s run was, you know, 30 years ago and that it’s still very much alive and literally tens of thousands, probably even hundreds of thousands of people who were not even born when Terry did his run are still running today in his legacy I mean, that’s an incredible accomplishment.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said Fox was a great Canadian who showed courage in the face of personal tragedy. “On behalf of all British Columbians, I want to express my condolences to Betty’s husband Rolly, her children and friends,” Clark said.

Terry Fox vowed to raise funds for cancer research by running across Canada in his 1980 Marathon of Hope.

He began on April 12, 1980, by dipping his foot into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, N.L. In the coming months, Fox ran a full marathon, 42 kilometres, every day, despite the amputated leg, bad weather, illness and fatigue.

After 143 days and nearly 5,400 kilometres, Fox was told the cancer had returned, this time to his lungs, and he was forced to end his marathon outside of Thunder Bay, Ont.

He died June 28, 1981, at age 22.

In 1988, Betty and her other son, Darrell, set up the Terry Fox Foundation. It has raised more than $550 million for cancer research in 28 countries through annual Terry Fox Runs.

In 1994, the Terry Fox Hall of Fame opened in Toronto to recognize Canadians who enhanced or assisted the lives of people living with physical disabilities.

The Terry Fox Research Institute opened in 2007. It helps cancer hospitals and researchers collaborate.