For the past 15 years, Frank Hurt Secondary has had some added horsepower in its automotive shop.
Chris Fox, a 69-year-old retired mechanic, has been sharing his expertise for free. He originally got the gig transporting the school’s drag racing car to Mission Raceway Park.
“From there, I started coming two days a week and it just built up,” Fox says.
He now volunteers Monday through Wednesday at the Newton high school.
Fox retired from the workforce 11 years ago and he said volunteering has given him “good aim in life” and helps him give back to the community through his skills.
“Instead of coming to retirement age and being put out to pasture, I can come here and help to pass my trade on.”
Manpreet Grewal (left), Frank Hurt’s auto shop teacher, said he wouldn’t be able to do what he does without Fox.
“I don’t think this program would be what it is if he wasn’t here,” Grewal said of Fox, who he’s been working with for the past eight years.
And the school’s drag race team is all Fox, according to Grewal.
“He takes care of it. I just sign the paperwork.”
Fox says some of his fondest memories have been working on the race cars.
The school has two: a 1980 Chevrolet Malibu, painted yellow and black in homage to the school’s colours, and a 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, which is actually Fox’s own car.
“I look after it. I pay most of the expenses for it and that kind of stuff, so that gives me great joy just being here with the kids and working with the kids.”
One student, Nicholas Giesbrecht, has been working on the Malibu with Fox for about two years.
“He takes his own time. He doesn’t do this for money,” Giesbrecht says.
Over the years, Fox has formed close bonds with students in the shop.
He recalled the time, near the end of 2005, when he had a heart attack at the school.
“I actually collapsed just inside the shop here – I had massive heart attack and the students there, they revived me and actually, I owe my life to them,” Fox says. “If I’d been at home, no one would have found me for days on end, so I would have been dead.”
Fox now has a defibrillator implanted inside him.
Then, about two years ago, Fox had a minor stroke. He says when a person has a stroke or a heart attack, their memory tends to go.
“It’s a lot of little things you tend to forget. (Volunteering) helps me to remember stuff.”
He adds the students have been supportive of him in every way during his recoveries.
“In that respect, you know you got a good bond and you form friendships with them. These bonds can be for life,” Fox says. “A lot of them, once you warm up to them or they warm up to you, you have great fun with them and joke with them.”
Grewal says the teens greatly admire Fox.
“He’s got experience and that’s what counts. Once the students see that you know what you’re doing, they respect you.”
Fox has been living in Surrey for the past 35 years. He was originally born in Ireland and was raised in England. He started working as an auto mechanic in 1974.
Considering Fox lives just up the hill from the school, his volunteering gig doesn’t have a long commute.
He says as long as he can still get there, do the job and Grewal (or “G” as he calls him) needs him, he will keep on coming.
“As long as I enjoy coming here, I will keep coming here. I thought of (quitting at) 70… but that at the moment – it’s just a starting date.”