Stephen Fennell

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Athens Dr. Stephen Fennell passed away on Monday, May 30, 2011, at Athens Regional Medical Center, surrounded by his loving family, close friends, and many caring doctors and nurses. Steve had battled courageously and valiantly against lymphoma, including a bone marrow transplant in 1999. Most recently, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia, and was facing another transplant. Steve was born on September 21, 1940, in Augusta, to Angele Wolcott Fennell and Dr. Samuel W. Fennell. He attended Loyola University's School of Dentistry, graduating in 1964, where he met and married his college sweetheart, Valerie. He served as a dentist at the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1964-1966 on the communications carrier, the U.S.S. Wright. After his honorable discharge, he continued his oral surgery studies at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, his internship at Charity Hospital, in New Orleans, and then his residency at Episcopal Hospital, in Philadelphia. He began his private oral and maxillofacial surgery practice in Athens in 1970. He was deeply invested in his work and will be remembered by all those he treated throughout the years. Like a larger-than-life character out of great southern fiction, Steve Fennell lived his life colorfully, boldly, and well. A fixture in Athens for more than 40 years, Steve was Athens' first oral surgeon and one of the great gentlemen in local practice. Each of Steve's patients received his caring, personal attention, including his home telephone number and the comfort of knowing that their doctor was truly there for them. Many in the Athens community also know of Doctor Fennell's personal generosity. It was long his habit of providing his skilled services to those who needed his help but could not afford to pay. The role of gentleman doctor and community-minded elder was only one side of Steve's personality. To label him an avid hunter and sportsman is like calling Albert Einstein kind of smart. Three times, the family added on to their house to make room for his hunting trophies, including big game of every description from his many hunts in Africa, the American west, Alaska, and British Columbia. Even the traditional colors of Christmas could not hold out in the face of Steve's passion. When his girls were still young, the Fennell tree and all the family's gifts were decorated with safari hues and animal prints. It became a beloved family tradition. Whether fishing for tarpon on the deep sea or wading through the duck swamp with his beloved black lab, Doc, Steve found his peace and recharged his batteries in nature. One treasured photo, taken in the wild Rockies of British Columbia after Steve had completed a successful hunt, captures his essence. A million miles from civilization with untamed nature all around him, his family captioned the photo with a line from Shakespeare: Now my soul hath elbow room. Steve is predeceased by his parents and his sister, Margarita Fennell Adam. He is survived by his devoted wife of 46 years, Valerie Vestal Fennell; their two daughters, Gretchen Fennell Evans (Jim) and Allison Ann Fennell; his aunt, Martyl Hogan (Bill); niece, Nancy Newland (Dr. Craig); nephews, John Adam (Dianne) and David Adam; brother-in-law, Gene Adam, and several great-nieces and -nephews and special cousins. A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Sunday, June 5, at the UGA Catholic Center, 1344 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, followed by a reception for family and friends. The pallbearers will be Dr. Robert Cannon, Dr. Hugh Jenkins, Dr. Patrick Sheehan, and Dr. Charles Dobbins. Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Clarke County Dental Society, Crawford W. Long Medical Society, the Hunting Buddies, and the Golf Group. Several private ceremonies to scatter his ashes will be held in locations locally and around the world, in places which were particularly holy to Steve. His hunting companions have planned a dedication of Fennell Rock, from which Steve continued to hunt even as he battled leukemia. Visitation will be held on 6-8 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the Lord & Stephens Funeral Home East (4355 Lexington Road, Athens). In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Steve's name to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Georgia (3715 Northside Pkwy., Ste. 300, Bldg. 400, Atlanta, GA, 30327, Attn: Maureen Davidson) or Athens Regional Medical Center Foundation, Oncology Unit (1199 Prince Ave., Athens, GA 30606). Lord & Stephens Funeral Home East, Athens, has charge of arrangements.
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Lord & Stephens Funeral Home - East Chapel
4355 Lexington Road
Athens, GA 30605
(706) 546-1587
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Published in Athens Banner-Herald on June 3, 2011
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