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James Fell


1923 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
James Fell Obituary
James Michael Gardner Fell, 93, of Waverly Heights, Gladwyne, passed away on December 16. His wife of nearly sixty years, Daphne Fell (née Macdonald), was by his side as he died. Michael, or “Puzzle,” as he was known to his family, was born on December 4, 1923, to James Pemberton Fell and Ella May Fell (née Gardner) in Vancouver, British Columbia, where his father, a Colonel from the Canadian Army Corps of Engineers who also became a real estate developer in the area, helped to lay out North Vancouver. Michael attended school in Vancouver until 1935, when he went to England to study at Eton. In 1940, WWII obliged him to return to Canada, where he went to the University of British Columbia for his BA, graduating at the age of 19 in 1943. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1951, with a specialization in Analysis; in later years he was known for “Fell Bundles,” or Banach *-Algebraic Bundles. He taught first in the Mathematics Department at the University of Washington, Seattle, and then moved to the Mathematics Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1965 until his retirement in 1991. During his years at Penn he developed a great interest in the Sanskrit language, and attended Sanskrit courses in the South Asian Studies Department. After retirement his passion for languages extended to Icelandic, which he learned to speak, and in his retirement he published six books, most of them translations, on aspects of Icelandic Christianity. He and Daphne spent at least three months a year in Reykjavik every year for twenty years. A towering intellect who knew, apart from Sanskrit and Icelandic, German, French, Russian, Greek, and Latin, Michael was nevertheless a gentle, unassuming man who loved to split firewood, clean gutters, play the piano, play in the park with his children and then grandson, and tell jokes. Puzzle is mourned by his wife Daphne; his daughter Rachel, son-in-law Scott, and grandson James; and his son Peter and daughter-in-law Stefanie. Funeral services will be held at All Saints’ Church, Wynnewood (corner of Gypsy Lane and Montgomery Avenue) on Friday, December 23, at 11 a.m. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to All Saints’ Church.
Published in Main Line Media News on Dec. 25, 2016
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