The Edge Outer Banks 2000.2001 Home

Bond Broker to Wanchese Waterman
Text by Catherine Kozak . Photos by Deborah Sawyer
Fred Fox has a name and tall, lean looks that make it tough to pinpoint what he does, or where he’s from. That’s how he likes it.
For a good chunk of his adult life, Fox enjoyed the high life of a municipal bond broker, living in townhouses and luxury apartments in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and Atlanta. He wore the best clothes. He wined and dined clients in the best restaurants. He dated beautiful women.
Then, within a week of his first encounter with the low-slung beauty of the Outer Banks, he ditched the glamour and glitz in favor of the rugged and real.
“It reminded me of the Jersey Shore back when I was a kid,” Fox says. “There weren’t a lot of people. I liked the desolate part of it.”
Since that day in 1978, Fox, 59, has been working as a commercial fisherman. And he swears he has never regretted his dramatic decision.
“No, not in the least,” Fox says from his living room at his tidy Wanchese ranch house. “I like my work. I like my yard and my garden...I’m very content right now. I was over it.”
The transition from the office to the waterways was easy, he says. Fishing is the right fit.
“It’s something I really love to do,” he says. “It gets in your blood — the challenge — it’s different every day. You’ve got the weather, so many things to contend with. I look forward to getting up and going to work in the morning.”
Dressed in neat blue jeans with a gray sweatshirt pushed up to the elbows, Fox lit one cigarette after another as he recalled the lifestyle he was immersed in during the ’60s.
“The energy...It was a completely different world. It was business suits and martini lunches and a lot of money. And I got hooked.”


He did it for 11 years. But it turned out to be the filling in his life sandwich. The bread — the staple that has held it together — has been his time on the water. Boating in Manasquan, New Jersey, not far from his hometown of Plainfield, filled the summers of his early years. As a teen, he worked as a mate in New Jersey, baiting hooks for fishermen, cleaning fish, cleaning the boat. Then he joined the Navy.
“I loved the water,” he said. “I’ve never been seasick a day in my life — strong stomach, I don’t know; I’ve come close on a hangover.”
While he was in the service, his grandfather lent him $5,000 to buy a charter boat. Out of the Navy at age 21, he did carpentry in the winter and in the warmer months, he’d captain his own 46-foot boat, The White Squall. But eventually, the customers wore out his patience. One time in particular, Fox recalled, a party of six men “had a good buzz on” when they got underway after dawn. By the time the boat was six miles out, one of the guys jumped overboard. When Fox went to retrieve him, the man starting giving him lip and tried to jump up on the boat’s bridge. “We tied him to the fightin’ chair and took him back to the dock,” Fox said.
Not long after, he met a man at the Brielle Yacht Club who was a partner with Eastman Dillon Union Securities, a large Manhattan brokerage firm on Wall Street. Leaning forward, Fox illustrated how he was talked into joining the firm by rubbing his thumbs and fingers together, his laugh adding the exclamation point.
“It was a lot of money what could be made,” Fox said. “What I could start out with just in training was a helluva lot more than I’d make doing carpentry work.” Before he knew it, he was making a six-figure salary, living in an apartment on 58th Street in Manhattan and doing lots of entertaining. “It was exciting,” he remembered, smiling. “You partied.”
“It was a lot of money what could be made,” Fox said. “What I could start out with just in training was a helluva lot more than I’d make doing carpentry work.” Before he knew it, he was making a six-figure salary, living in an apartment on 58th Street in Manhattan and doing lots of entertaining. “It was exciting,” he remembered, smiling. “You partied.”

“I’m from New Jersey, but I’m a redneck at heart,” Fox laughs.
“I’ve got this ’69 GMC pick-up and I’m restoring her slowly.
I’m going to get her just right.”

Fox held onto his boat and still chartered on the weekends (“because I loved it, you know”). But three years after he started in bonds, he accepted an offer from a firm in Beverly Hills, where the women were wild — “they’re a lot freer, let’s put it that way” — and he spent his time fishing off his 35-foot pleasure boat and hunting coyote in Palm Springs. In between, he married his first wife, Sandra.
Then, four years later, he got another irresistible offer to open a brokerage firm in Atlanta. The couple moved, had a daughter, and divorced in the four years they lived in Georgia. Fox had already turned around and sold his vintage ’51 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud for a profit. He did the same thing later with the Mercedes Gull Wing that he drove for two years.
Then, four years later, he got another irresistible offer to open a brokerage firm in Atlanta. The couple moved, had a daughter, and divorced in the four years they lived in Georgia. Fox had already turned around and sold his vintage ’51 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud for a profit. He did the same thing later with the Mercedes Gull Wing that he drove for two years.
But a fateful trip to the Outer Banks righted his world.
“We were in Atlanta and I was complaining about this and complaining about that and I said ‘Why don’t we just go the Outer Banks?’” Fox said, recounting the events after he had returned to Atlanta. “And my ex-wife said, ‘You don’t have the balls.’ A week after that, we were on the road.”
In his garage, made over into a NASCAR party room, Fox shows off a photograph of him in California, standing beside an enormous fish. Fit and well-built, with dark hair and a mustache, skin bronzed by sun, the young, handsome bond broker looks pleased with himself. On the other side of the prize fish stands a lovely blonde, petite and tanned. “That’s my first wife,” he says matter-of-factly. Then he turned to detailing his beloved playroom: surround-sound speakers (“It’s like you’re at the track,” Fox says delightedly), posters of women in bikinis, a refrigerator for the beer and food he and his buddies — he never sees old friends from the brokerage days anymore — consume while watching the race.


Most of the locals think he’s an Outer Banker. With his casual drawl, he doesn’t sound like the Yankee he is. Most people can’t believe he’s originally from New Jersey, Fox says. There’s a way watermen have — maybe it’s friendliness edged with toughness, plain-speaking and bull-tossing in the same breath — and Fox, rightfully, has that genuine feel of a man who reads the wind and negotiates with nature every day of his life. He’s felt at home from day one, he says — but he doesn’t fool the natives. As far as he can tell though, he’s been accepted here. And he plans to stay rooted right where he is.
“Oh yeah, I’m gonna die right here,” he says, smiling wide under his close-cropped mustache. “I’m gonna have my ashes put in the ocean.”
“Pamlico Sound,” Fran Fox, his wife of five years, corrects.
“No, the ocean,” Fred Fox answers.
Nah, you’re right, he suddenly agrees. The sound was where he regained the meaning in his life.
“That’s where I got my start.”



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