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Taking the plunge

If it hadn’t been for a rainy day in Cancun, Bob Fox, who couldn’t pass a swimming test, might not have become the professional scuba diver he is today.

But that’s just part of the story of Fox, a Southern Oregon bridge club owner and player, retired physician, advanced online computer gamer, and film buff who watches about 500 movies a year.

Fox, 67, lives with his wife, Darby, about a half hour northwest of Medford on a secluded bit of acreage in Evans Valley.

He received his undergraduate degree from Harpur College in Binghamton, N.Y., in math and science, specializing in chemistry and biology.

“Harpur was often referred to as the ‘Berkeley of the East,’ ” Fox said.

Then he attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, earning his M.D. in 1975.

He started out in emergency medicine for Los Angeles County General Hospital. It was a hectic schedule, but he was prepared.

“After training in the south Bronx, it was nothing,” he said.

He later switched to family medicine, running a hospital’s outpatient clinic in Baldwin Hills, a minority community in South Central L.A. After it was closed, he rented what had been a beauty salon across the street and opened his own clinic to serve that community.

“It was a solo practice,” he said, “although I had coverage when I was out of town. But I didn’t get my first vacation until after five years. I went to Club Med in Cancun and that changed the rest of my life.”

He went to the all-inclusive resort to unwind and enjoy the amenities. However, he had a little bad luck with the weather.

“It was raining most of the time, so when somebody asked, ‘Does anyone want to learn to dive?’ I figured I was going to be wet all the time anyway, so why not?”

There was no time for a swim test. He took the plunge and he loved it.

Fox had wanted to dive since he was a youngster. The trouble he had passing swim tests stemmed from a traumatic event in the water as a child when he almost drowned.

The diving lessons changed everything. He returned to Club Med resorts for five-week stints every year — diving, riding horses, learning dressage and archery. It was diving that became his big passion.

He progressed through the various experience levels and soon was an expert — a professional diver and instructor with a deep knowledge of the sport and the gear involved. Experts must have logged more than 500 dives. Fox has logged more than 4,600.

“In the early ‘90s, I was asked if I would work as a dive medicine physician for them,” Fox said. “So I took training to learn dive accident management, rescue techniques, and how to operate recompression chambers.”

From then on, his schedule involved alternating five months at the clinic and one month at a Club Med.

In 1995, Club Med asked if he was interested in working full-time. When he said yes, they backed up a little, noting that they usually didn’t hire Americans.

“They said if I learned French, they’d hire me. So I learned French,” he said.

He sold his practice and began his career with Club Med, working four to five months straight, taking a month off in L.A., then repeating the schedule.

“I worked at Club Meds in the Caribbean, Mexico, Asia and Africa,” Fox said.

During that time he began teaching dive instructors CPR and emergency procedures — in and out of the water. He’s had his share of performing deep-water rescues. He takes recreational divers on outings and knows how to operate the boat.

Another big change in his life happened in 1999.

“I met Darby at Club Med, and we got married later that year." Darby, about 20 years his junior, was a massage therapist, originally from Orlando.

When he decided to retire, he continued to work twice a year for Club Med, a month at a time.

In 2003, he and Darby sold most of their things and spent two months driving around the country looking for a place to live. They eventually arrived in the Rogue Valley and decided to stay. They rented a home in Ashland for a year before buying the Evans Valley acreage.

Fox hadn’t played much bridge until he arrived in the Rogue Valley.

“I took lessons from Bill Holt and Bernadine Lacy (both club owners at the time), attended tournaments, and even started teaching bridge in 2006,” he said.

He earned his director’s credentials and directed at both clubs frequently.

When a bridge center opened in Phoenix, south of Medford, he took over responsibilities as club owner for the Monday and Thursday games.

He continues to work for Club Med twice a year and will continue as long as he is able, he said. He just returned from a gig in Turks and Caicos islands.

And, oh, about the computer gaming. He recently started a new online game and in two weeks was ranked 2,900 among 300,000 playing the game. Those kids out there don’t know a 67-year-old geezer is taking them to the cleaners.

— Jim Flint is a former newspaper publisher and editor now living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Bob Fox
Bob Fox, retired physician, dives in the Caribbean.