On January 15, 2005, Bradley Fox, a United States Marine, walked into Kenney's Madison Tavern in Warminster, Pa., to watch the Philadelphia Eagles play the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL playoffs. The game was a victory for the Eagles, sending them to the NFC Championship game. But the night was an even greater success for Fox.
"It was the day that he met the love of his life, Lynsay Mattozzi,” said Father Edward Hallinan, at Fox's funeral mass.
On January 21, 2005, Brad and Lynsay had their first date at the Joseph Ambler Inn, in North Wales. Brad gave her a ride home, used the bathroom, and forgetfully left his zipper down as he met her father for the first time. But it didn't matter:
"That night, I sat down on my sister's bed with her and my mom, and told them I met the guy I knew I was going to marry," wrote Lynsay in a prepared note, read at the mass by her sister, Brittany.
In the spring of that year, Brad and Lynsay had breakfast at IHOP, and the Marine informed his girlfriend of four months that he'd be returning to Iraq. He asked if she’d be with him for the long haul. Without hesitation, Lynsay said that she would remain by his side and support him through his deployment.
She wrote him a letter each day and sent it to him from across the world, and skipped the evening news for fear of hearing the worst. She often visited the Madison Tavern, where it all began.
"Your mom and I would sit at the Madison and play military songs on the jukebox, and just cry thinking about you."
On March 24, 2006, Fox walked off a bus from his second tour of duty in Iraq and into the arms of Lynsay, nine long months from when he last saw her. Exactly a year later, he knelt down at the foot of a bed in Atlantic City and placed an engagement ring on her finger. They became husband and wife in a military wedding on June 21, 2008.
"It was just as perfect as I imagined, from the time I was a little girl," Lynsay wrote. "Not because of the guests, or the dress, but because I was making the commitment to the most perfect man-- the man of my dreams."
On April 13, 2012, Kadence Fox was born. Brad ran around the hospital "like a kid on Christmas," and let rare tears fall from his eyes. His baby girl looked just like him.
"She is and always will be Daddy's little girl," Lynsay wrote. "I will forever be reminded of you each time I look into her eyes."
On September 13, 2012, Officer Bradley Fox, of the Plymouth Township Police Department, responded to a hit-and-run on Ridge Pike, and followed a silver SUV that went speeding past in the wrong lane of travel. After the driver exited the vehicle, Fox began a foot pursuit in an industrial area with K-9 partner Nick, rounded a corner along a train track, and was robbed of the rest of his life.
Funeral for a hero
On September 19, 2012, thousands of law enforcement officers, emergency service personnel, military members, veterans, friends and family gathered at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Plymouth Meeting, for Bradley Fox's funeral. Police officers from as far away as Chicago made the trek, joining a seemingly endless line of blue and white uniforms waiting to pay their respects inside the church.
"There's a lot of sorrow here today, but there's also a lot of pride in standing with a fallen officer," said Montgomery County Sheriff Eileen Behr. "It's just a support and respect we have for one another's families."
Among those standing in line were Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Ramsey told reporters that members of his department were still wearing memorial bands across their badges in honor of one of their own fallen, Officer Moses Walker, Jr., when they heard the news of Officer Fox. They decided to keep the bands on for a little while longer in his honor.
"It really does highlight the fact that men and women in policing put their lives on the line every day, and you never know which call is going to be the final call," said Ramsey. "That's what we live with, and unfortunately sometimes what we die for."
As the church filled to capacity before the mass, the hundreds who remained filtered into a side parking lot to watch the services on a giant screen. Father Hallinan delivered a message, sharing the stories he learned from Fox's family after speaking with them for three hours on Saturday night. The first was a story from Fox's welcome home party after returning from the Middle East.
"They were having the party, but realized Brad was not to be found. It was then that they looked outside to discover Brad in his bare feet, standing in the pouring rain," Hallinan said. "They told him to come inside, but Brad stayed there, allowing the rain to pour over him, and purify him from his days in the dry desert sands in Iraq."
Hallinan shared more insights-- how Brad was an avid watcher of Jeopardy, shouting answers before contestants buzzed in and keeping track of the money he had won. How neighborhood children would knock on the front door of the Fox house, and if answered by Lynsay, ask if Brad could come out to play. How he became embarrassed when Lynsay sent him birthday balloons during his first week on the job in Plymouth.
But ultimately, Hallinan honored his sacrifice.
"Officer Brad Fox, in assisting his fellow police officers, along with his dog Nick, laid down his life trying to uphold the peace and well-being of the community of Plymouth Meeting,” Hallinan said.
Brad Fox, Plymouth Police Officer
Near the end of the mass, Brittany Mattozzi, Lynsay's sister, stood to read the heartfelt message from her sister. It recalled how Brad and Lynsay discussed possible career choices at the conclusion of his military service, and how he quickly determined he wanted to be a police officer. Lynsay wrote that she helped Brad get started, handling the paperwork and application with the Montgomery County Police Academy. However, Brad ran with it the rest of the way, graduating top of his class and receiving a plethora of job offers.
But the Plymouth Police Department stood out.
"I'll never forget the day you came home after getting the phone call… you were so nervous and excited from your interview, and I knew that this was the department that you wanted to spend your career with."
Lynsay recalled how Fox turned down the rest of the offers, and dove head first into police work.
"They had no idea how lucky they were to have you, but they would soon find out that you would do everything in your power to prove to them that you were a dedicated officer."
As Mattozzi neared the end of the note, the emotion in her voice rose, as if the feelings in her sister's words washed over her as she read them aloud. Lynsay recalled how they decided their Gilbertsville home was the perfect place to settle down and live out their lives, even joking about being buried in the backyard.
"I promise you that our forever home will remain our forever home, and your children will be raised just as you would have wanted," Lynsay wrote. "I look forward to the birth of our second child in March, to see what characteristics of you shine through his or her little personality."
Lynsay says that through their children, Bradley Fox will live on.
"Your children will forever know the type of man you were. They will always know who their Daddy is, and how amazing you were as a husband, father, friend, son, brother, Marine, and police officer," Lynsay wrote. "We all know your legacy will carry on through your children. I love you Brad."
Outside the church, a color guard formed to watch as Fox's casket was loaded into a hearse. It pulled out onto Township Line Road, followed by hundreds of police vehicles, all bound for Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Upper Makefield, Bucks County. Along the way, in Upper Southampton, emergency workers stood on a turnpike overpass to salute the procession, and onlookers on Lindenhurst Road waved flags for over half an hour as the vehicles rode by.
At the cemetery, the hearse passed under a massive American flag, held billowing in the wind by two Plymouth Fire Company ladder trucks. More than one hundred K-9 officers lined the long driveway, guarding the hearse as it slowly entered.
And there, on the sunny afternoon of September 19, 2012, surrounded by loving family, friends, and fellow police officers, Bradley Fox was laid to rest.
Click here to find out how to donate to Officer Fox's family and support local police departments.
Patch freelancer Tom Sofield contributed to this story.