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George Fenn Dies at 85

Harvard Alum, MetLife Counsel and Amenia Planning Board Chair
Wed Apr 6th, 2016

Goerge Fenn in his garden at Mead House Farm

AMENIA – George Karl Fenn Junior, a boundlessly generous community member, friend and beloved uncle, died on March 31, 2016 at the age of 85.  Born on December 19, 1930, George grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago, spending summer seasons at his family’s property on Bass Lake in Dickinson County Michigan.

George attended Harvard at the age of 16, graduating with an A.B. in 1951 and going on to obtain his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1954. George served in the US Army during the Korean War.  Following, George built an estimable career over nearly 40 years at MetLife, retiring as Vice President & Investment Counsel.

Mr. Fenn was the heart and soul of many of the garden conservancy activities in Amenia, having been one of the early founders of the Amenia Garden Club with its Hidden Gardens tours including his own delightful stroll garden and pond.  He also hosted many of the gatherings before the tours.  

Mead House Farm Garden in Spring

Andy Durbridge, another horticulturalist, told us "George was a tireless supporter of the Garden Conservancy, and all its programs as well as an early founder of the Amenia Garden Club with Diana King, Maxine Paetro and later Delores Holland. He served as Chair of the Amenia Planning Board for many years and ferried it through tough times when Amenia faced development applications along Rte. 22.

But first and foremost, he was a gentleman. He was always kind. He had Amenia's best interests at heart and gave endless support for its horticultural efforts. He was loved and respected by everybody."

Maxine Paetro, whose garden Broccoli Hall, has also been on the garden conservancy tour, told us how much she enjoyed being with George:

"George Fenn was a wonderful friend and had a great laugh. It was always a treat to walk with him through the garden he created with his long-time partner Bill Tarbox. Every planting had a story and the garden was picture perfect in all seasons."

Ms. Paetro, who writes mystery novels with James Patterson, told us “George Fenn, an attorney in real life, was a character in a book called 12th of Never. His fictitious doppelganger was the head of a law firm with his in real-life long-time partner Bill Tarbox.”

Many others in the Amenia community remember him fondly, including former Town Supervisor Bill Flood, who chaired the Planning Board after Fenn. “George Fenn was a true gentleman. An extremely dedicated public servant. He did an incredible job as chairperson of the planning board when Amenia was going through a busy time. He was gracious and ran the planning board with poise and patience while still maintaining complete control. When I took over as chairman he was always there to assist me when I needed help. He was a good friend and will be greatly missed.”

Mead House Farm Garden in Spring

One of George’s closest friends, Diana King, who founded the Kildonan School, accompanied him to many cultural events including his beloved classical music concerts at Music Mountain. The two threw parties together and were practically inseparable after George’s partner, Bill Tarbox, passed away. "He became my closest and dearest friend and I will remember him fondly as long as I live," said King who was with him days before he passed away in Austin, Texas.

George Fenn was preceded in death by his sister, Elizabeth Wallace Fenn MacDougal; his mother, Vera Eleanor Fenn; and his father, George Karl Fenn, a renowned heart surgeon based in Chicago and professor of medicine at Northwestern University. He is survived by two nieces, Jodi and Megan MacDougal and two nephews, Mark and Russell Fenn MacDougal.

Donations in memory of George Fenn can be made online: www.gardenconservancy.org or The Garden Conservancy, P.O. Box 219, Cold Spring, NY 10516, or call the Conservancy at 845.424.6500.  A memorial gathering for George Fenn is being planned for the summer at one of the local gardens, details to be announced soon.