Angela Carr had simple plans for how she would spend this Sunday: She and her mom, Denise Fox, were going to visit the Coalesce Bookstore chapel in Morro Bay — where Fox had married Carr’s stepfather decades ago — and then spend most of the day together in Fox’s favorite city in San Luis Obispo County.
Instead, Sunday will be Carr’s first Mother’s Day without her mother.
“If I could, I would tell her I couldn’t have asked
for a better mom,” Carr said while sitting at a Grover Beach coffeehouse Thursday, with notes and letters from her mother spread in front of her, and an album on the table opened to show old photos and Polaroids.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better friend or confidante. I couldn’t have asked for a better secret-keeper or road warrior. I couldn’t have asked for a better late-night movie watcher. She was all of those things,” Carr said.
Fox, 56, was killed this past Saturday evening in a head-on collision with an alleged DUI driver on Highway 58 in Pozo.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The driver, Jessica Allred, crossed the solid double yellow line while driving west down the highway and collided with Fox’s Toyota while Fox was driving home from her job in San Luis Obispo, according to the CHP. Allred, who broke a leg and her ankles in the crash, was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI.
Fox was pronounced dead at the scene.
I couldn’t have asked for a better friend or confidante. I couldn’t have asked for a better secret-keeper or road warrior. I couldn’t have asked for a better late-night movie watcher. She was all of those things.
by a suspected DUI driver a week before Mother’s Day
Carr had spoken to her mother earlier that day, asking her to come stay with her and her family in Grover Beach that night because of a concert in Pozo that weekend they both knew would increase traffic on the little-traveled back roads outside of Santa Margarita, where Fox lived.
But Fox declined the invitation, saying if she went to Grover Beach, she would just be stopping by before heading back home.
“I was like, I don’t want her to be driving out there any later, so I said, ‘No, Mom, it’s OK, we’ll see you tomorrow,’ ” Carr said. “And she was like, ‘OK, that’s fine!’ ”
That was the last conversation Carr had with her mother. At about 6:30 p.m., a relative who had been contacted by the police through Fox’s phone called Carr and told her there had been an accident.
Carr drove to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo with her husband and uncle, thinking Fox might have been taken there after the collision. Instead, she was met by two sheriff’s deputies who told them that Fox had died.
“You know, it was news I had already actually experienced, because my biological father died when I was 5 of a motorcycle accident, and my stepdad passed away seven years ago,” she said. “So it is not the first time I’ve heard it. It is just, I think, the most traumatic to process.”
Since the crash, Carr said she has followed her mother’s example in the face of tragedy, to help lead her family through the heart-wrenching experience of losing a beloved mother, sister, grandmother and aunt.
“I think the thing that I have gleaned most from her example is that she never stopped loving,” Carr said. “She never stopped loving, even though she had lived through, you know, tragedy. That’s really been the force that’s helped me be — not OK — but helped me go on.”
According to Carr, Fox was a loving mother and grandmother, who while not “goofy” per se, was still willing to pose for funny pictures pretending her grandson was Darth Vader from “Star Wars,” or dress up in different, elaborate costumes every Halloween to celebrate Carr’s birthday.
She was also a natural caregiver, Carr said; from helping the family as they struggled with Carr’s middle son being diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, to her professional work with the mentally ill and dying — Fox most recently was employed as a life enrichment specialist with Alzheimer’s care community Sydney Creek in San Luis Obispo — Fox was known for her dedication to others, especially those she loved.
“She brought art and music into the patients’ lives,” said Ann-Marie Browder, who worked closely with Fox at Sydney Creek. “ She was patient and very talkative; she always had a story to tell. She was really like a one-woman show.”
Browder and co-worker Christine Seely had a long list of adjectives to describe Fox: “positive,” “wonderful,” “talented” and “caring” being some of their favorites.
She never stopped loving, even though she had lived through, you know, tragedy. That’s really been the force that’s helped me be — not OK — but helped me go on.
Angela Carr, on her mother, Denise Fox
Those descriptors of her mother are no surprise for Carr, who said she has been inundated with responses and stories from her mother’s co-workers since the accident.
“She always felt that she wanted to be, not needed, but useful,” Carr said. “She didn’t care about being popular, but she cared that people knew she could be counted on. She just had that innate responsibility to the people she loved.”
Adjusting to the loss is difficult, Carr said, but over the past week she has realized that even though Fox herself is gone, she left gifts behind — both physical and emotional — that will stay with the family forever.
“My children had already picked out her (Mother’s Day) gift, that’s ended up being such a sweet memorial gift for them,” Carr said, describing a tiny “fairy house” encased in a glass jar with glow lights that can be turned on like a nightlight. “They turn it on and say it’s YaYa’s house.”
Carr said instead of ignoring the day, the family will still celebrate Mother’s Day — what she is positive her mother would have wanted her to do.
“I may be living my life without a mother, and celebrating my first Mother’s Day without my mother, but I’m also blessed to be a mother and have three children that I can teach her lessons to,” she said. “And hopefully add some of my own lessons to, too.”
Carr has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for her mother’s final wishes. As of Friday, the page had raised $6,360 of its $6,000 goal. Carr said she and the family are planning to hold a private service followed by a celebration of life later this month.