A Mighty Woman of Valor: A Tribute to my Grandma Iris
They say that a virtuous woman’s price is far above rubies, but my grandmother’s worth exceeds them all. Mrs. Iris Fox was an impeccable example of grace, humility, and dignity. She was born in St. Vincent and relocated to Aruba for work. After coming to America in August 1969, my grandmother devoted her life to providing greater service to her community. She not only served in church (as you’ll see below), she was also a registered nurse.
She started working at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx and then worked at Gouverneur Hospital as a head nurse on the 7th floor on the night shift. She passed away on February 18th, 1994. In honor of her would be 97th birthday (which was February 5th, 1924), I want to share seven attributes that I adore about my Grandma Iris. I pray that her legacy lives on through the virtues that she exhibited in her life.
- Her Faith in God
There’s no doubt that my grandmother was a woman of God. Her faith was a beacon of hope to all who knew her. When she came to America from Aruba (with my Grandpa Alfred, my dad, and my aunts and uncles), she attended Good Tidings Gospel Chapel (my home church). There, she joined the “Metropolitan Christian Women’s Awareness Fellowship.” In that group, she served for sixteen years on the “Steering Committee.”
Grandma Iris was influential in serving the young people at Good Tidings. Not only was she part of the founding of Vacation Bible School, she also had a radio show called “The Children’s Gospel Hour.” She used this radio show to share Bible stories as well as encouraging words for the youth. She was also a teacher in Sunday School and she taught her own Bible class for the sisters in the church.
Not only did she serve in her church community, Grandma Iris also made sure that God was reverenced in her own home. She and Grandpa Alfred led the family in morning devotions daily. She also frequently quoted scriptures, one of her favorites being, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3). Although she faced stress on her job, Grandpa Alfred’s illness, and many other strenuous events in her life, nothing was able to get between her and her relationship with Jesus Christ. That picture of unwavering faith inspires me every day.
2. Her Talents
Grandma Iris was a gifted woman. She loved baking: she used to bake sweet bread, coconut bread, and cakes for her children. She also played the piano. Every evening at 7pm, Grandma Iris would sit at the piano and play beautiful melodies until she was ready to go to bed. She was also a writer. She had a journal where she would document her thoughts and interactions with her neighbors, family, and friends.
Grandma Iris also had a gift for administration. During Vacation Bible School, she would help organize the materials for the children. Her organization skills also aided her in teaching her Sister’s Bible class. Lastly, Grandma Iris was a renowned preacher in Good Tidings. She consistently spoke words of wisdom during Sister’s meetings which helped the sisters live virtuously and grow in their own faith journeys.
3. Her Wisdom
Grandma Iris had some wise sayings for her children and grandchildren. Here are a few of them:
- “Sit Square.” (Sit up straight)
- “It is better to be silent and considered a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.”
- Quoting her favorite scriptures (as seen above)
- “Mind your manners.”
These are just a few of grandma’s words of wisdom. Here are a few more things that were important to her:
- Good posture: she made sure that all of her children and grandchildren stood up straight and held their heads up high
- Etiquette: she ensured that the table was always set properly if someone wanted to have a meal
- Hospitality: she always made her home available for guests
- Generosity: she made sure to give what she had to the less fortunate
- Fashion: she believed in always looking your best (i.e. she wouldn’t allow girls to wear pants in her home)
4. Her Sense of Humor
My grandmother had a good sense of humor. She never failed to make everyone laugh and she had great timing when telling a good joke. For example, when my parents kissed each other for the first time on their wedding day, Grandma Iris exclaimed, “I didn’t get that!” This exclamation caused my parents to kiss for a second time, which also made the entire congregation burst out in laughter.
5. Her Commitment to Helping Others
Grandma Iris had an unwavering commitment to helping others. In addition to serving others in her church community, she also made it her mission to be a loyal friend in times of need. Here is a testimonial from one of her closest friends (whom she lovingly called “Big Sister”):
“She was such a kind and compassionate woman. She was the best cook in the world! She taught me how to make curry chicken (it was so good). She was a piano genius. She also used to teach piano lessons in her home for anyone who wanted to learn. Iris also loved the Lord. She was always talking about her Lord. She and I used to pray together. She loved her family a lot and she especially loved her children. She was such a sweet soul and I miss her very much.”
6. Her Love for her Family
Above all else, Grandma Iris loved her family. She took pride in the Fox family name and made sure that her children and grandchildren knew the importance of leaving a legacy for the future generations. She was involved in major family events such as birthdays and weddings. She even made sure to document all of the marriages of her seven children and the birth date of every grandchild in her Bible (my sister and I were born after she passed away so our mother added our birth dates afterwards).
She also used to babysit her grandchildren. Here are two testimonials from two of her grandchildren:
Testimonial #1: “I think all of my times spent with her were fun. Baking with grandma, working with her in the garden, picking figs from the fig tree, and watching Psalty and Superbook. Grandma was doing my hair, there were sleepovers; so many memories. She was really great. She had strict rules about pants (before [my sister and I] went to her house, our mom always made us change into a skirt or a skort because pants were not a thing), but she was great. No matter what we were eating, we had to set the table. [She was also big on] having good posture. My sister and I would walk with books on our heads if we slouched. She would say, ‘Stand up straight and hold your head up.’”
Testimonial#2: “This is the story that I remember about Grandma Iris: we were at her house and she always wanted us to set the table; so we had to put out all of the correct utensils and set it up with the napkins, placemat, and everything. It all had to be proper; etiquette was huge to her.
I remember saying, ‘Grandma why do we need to do this? We don’t even use these utensils!’
She responded, ‘One day you’re going to be at business lunches and dinners and you’ll need to know which fork to use.’
I was six years old [at the time] and now I go to business lunches and I’ve been to galas and fancy dinners where etiquette was absolutely paramount. I was teaching others at the table and I only knew what to do because of Grandma Iris.”
7. Attributes that We Share
In writing this article, I noticed that Grandma Iris and I shared some traits. For example:
- She and I both love to write
- She and I both played piano (I played from elementary school into middle school at Neil Walters Music School)
- She and I both went to Israel
- She and I have administrative skills (much needed in the real estate industry)
- She and I are loyal to close friends and family
- Most importantly, she and I love the Lord
Grandma Iris was a dynamic woman of faith. I enjoyed getting to know her better through this project and I pray that her legacy lives on through her grandchildren as well as her great-grandchildren and many generations to come.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” -Proverbs 31: 10, 25 & 30 (KJV)
The following information was contributed by:
- Leah Fox (grandchild, provided background information in the introduction)
- Sis. Joyce Neverson (from Good Tidings Gospel Chapel, provided information for attributes #1 and #2)
- Lynessa Smith-Fox (mother, provided information for attributes #2 and #4)
- Tatiana Fox (grandchild, provided information for attribute #3)
- “Big Sister” (from Good Tidings Gospel Chapel, provided testimonial for attribute #5)
- Damaris Herron-Watkins and Lydia Herron (grandchildren, provided testimonials for attribute #6)