Tom Fox, Designed Chatham's Town Flag

By: Tim Wood

Tom Fox displays his design of the Chatham town flag. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – In 1998, the chamber of commerce was notified that Chatham was one of several towns in the state not represented at the State House with its own flag. The chamber sponsored a contest to come up with a town flag design; 23 artists submitted 63 different designs for consideration.

The winning design—the Chatham Twin Lights and Coast Guard Station in a field of blue, with a cod, lobster, scallop and clam shell in each of the four corners—was submitted by Tom Fox, a local resident who had gained some notoriety a few years earlier by convincing the U.S. Postal Service to adopt a Cape Cod Postmark.

Mr. Fox passed away on Nov. 26. He was 96.

Mr. Fox enlisted Senator Edward Kennedy in his drive to have the postal service adopt a Cape Cod postmark. He told The Chronicle that he decided to pursue the postmark after noticing that mail he received was postmarked “Buzzard's Bay.”

“I thought that if anybody gets this mail, they'll think we moved,” he said in 1994.

It took a year to make the change, but the postmark was finally adopted and a ceremony marking the occasion held at the postal facility in Bourne (it wasn't even located in Buzzard's Bay) in July 1994.

"We should all pay tribute to Tom,” Kennedy said at the ceremony. “He was able through all the intervention of a wonderful idea to get the postal service to understand the importance of it.”

The postmark lasted through the early 2000s, when the Bourne facility was closed all of the Cape's mail was routed through Providence.

Mr. Fox's advocacy continued with an attempt to clarify confusing Route 28 directional signs. He was volunteering at the downtown chamber of commerce booth at the time and realized that quite a few people asked him to explain why signs for Route 28 south actually point north. The confusion was the result of the Cape's curving geography, specifically when Route 28 reaches Chatham and the southbound lane curves to the north. The state highway department changed the signs, but like the postmark, they eventually reverted to their original format.

The town flag was Mr. Fox's most enduring legacy, and he traveled to the State House in April 1999 with chamber officials to turn over a flag to state officials.

By 2013, however, he noticed that the town flag was absent from the Independence Day parade and other town events and suggested a change to his original design, which had featured the present Chatham lighthouse, not the old Twin Lights. It had been altered at the suggestion of the late town historian Joseph Nickerson. That was never done, however; the flag continues to be displayed on the wall at the main meeting room at the town hall annex, and is visible behind the board of selectmen during the weekly meetings.

Mr. Fox was a 1943 graduate of the U.S. Merchants Marine Academy and served as a first lieutenant during World War II. He worked for the telephone company in New York as a building engineer, and was a member of Knights of Columbus and a volunteer at the Mount Kisco Mutual Fire Department in Mount Kisco, N.Y. He also served on that town's planning board.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Employee Appreciation Fund (EAF) at Friendship Village of South Hills, 1290 Boyce Road A529, Pittsburgh, PA, 15241.