BCHC Citizen of Note: LaVonna Rea (Vonnie) Riddell Fox

The Burnet County Historical Commission will honor seven individuals for their contributions to Burnet County, at a Citizens of Note reception Tuesday, July 2 at 11 a.m. at the Burnet County AgriLife Extension Office, 607 North Vandeveer, Burnet. The community is invited to this special event and welcome to read each of the seven biographies in The Highlander and at highlandernews.com.

Burnet County Historical Commission

Citizen of Note

LaVonna Rea (Vonnie) Riddell Fox

by Tommye Dorbandt Potts

LaVonna Rea (Vonnie) Riddell Fox was born 92 years ago in Spicewood, Texas, to Rachel Estella Hollingsworth Riddell and Wallace William Riddell, Texas' longest serving sheriff.

Vonnie's great-grandfather was William D. Riddell, born in Scotland in 1852. He was a stone cutter, scholar and school teacher, known around Burnet County as "Professor Riddell." William and his brother Robert were hired by the State of Texas to construct the State Capitol. William and Robert were married to sisters, Mary and Janet Orr. The two families set sail for Galveston, bought covered wagons and teams and traveled to Fairland near Granite Mountain.

Her maternal grandmother, Josephine Dillard Hollingsworth, born in Georgia, related, how she, an 11-year-old girl, watched Atlanta burn. The Union forces, in their "march to the sea," burned, pillaged, and robbed many towns, plantations and farms as they hurried to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

When Vonnie's father, Wallace Riddell, was elected Burnet County Sheriff, the family moved into the Burnet County Jail on Jan. 1, 1939. The first two weeks were frightening for twelve year old Vonnie, but she soon felt at home in the first-floor apartment, with her parents and sisters, Modena and Daisybel. Her mother had brought a large wood cook stove to prepare meals for her family and for the prisoners. The red-brick school in Burnet, now a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, was only three blocks away, so Vonnie could walk to school.

On Dec. 26, 1939, a son was born to Wallace and Essie, Wallace Patton (Pat) Riddell. Vonnie hurried home from school everyday to help care for her little brother.

Vonnie graduated Burnet High School and Durham Business College at Austin. She was secretary to Burnet's first city manager. On Dec. 8, 1953, Vonnie Riddell and Billy Joe Fox were married. Billy Joe was in the ranching business at the Fox Ranch, with his father, Denny Fox.

Billy Joe also had twelve refrigerated trucks, and boosted local economy by hiring a driver for each truck. Fruits and vegetables from the Valley were transported in the refrigerated trucks to Los Angeles. In 1962, Vonnie and Billy Joe built and operated Thunderbird Lodge, a Lake Buchanan Resort.

After Billy Joe was hired to sell property at Granite Shoals and made a partner at Sherwood Shores, Vonnie had full responsibility of operating Thunderbird Lodge.

Fox Real Estate opened an office at the Highlander Inn in 1972. Vonnie and Billy Joe developed Delaware Springs and Oak Vista, and donated property for Delaware Springs Golf Course. In 1979, they traveled around the world, visiting Rome, Greece, Turkey, Hawaii and Tokyo.

For ten years, Vonnie lived with Billy Joe at Oaks Nursing Home during his illness. On Jan. 30, 2018, Billy Joe died. Vonnie continues to consult in her business ventures and with Fox Real Estate. Excited about the interior restoration of the 1884 Burnet County Jail, Vonnie said, "Just give me a call, I'm ready to help."

Because of her lifelong contributions to the growth and economic successes of Burnet County, and because of her strong family ties to Burnet county pioneers, Vonnie Fox is a true Citizen of Note.

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