Dr. Perry C. Fennell Jr. was a community dentist whose mission was helping people.
He died on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, of respiratory failure. He was 82.
Fennell was born on Sept. 9, 1932, in Philadelphia. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1950. With an American Legion Scholarship, he matriculated at Temple University and received his bachelor’s degree in 1954. He graduated in 1959 from Temple University School of Dentistry where he was inducted into the Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society.
Fennell was a captain in the United States Army where he served as a general dentist from 1959 to 1961.
He practiced dentistry in West Philadelphia for more than 35 years. He opened his first dental office on Girard Avenue in 1962. In 1970, Fennell and his partners founded the F.L.W.G Comprehensive Healthcare Center at 52nd Street and Haverford Avenue, the largest health care center in the community.
After the center closed in 1980, Fennell renamed his practice Dental First Corp and moved to 5627 Vine St. where he practiced until he retired in 2005.
Fennell was a community activist. One of his most cherished projects for which he received many accolades was founding Interested Negroes, Inc. (IN), a non-profit organization for the advancement and education of Black youth. IN mentored more than 1500 youth per year from 1967 to 1982. The organization partnered youth with white and blue collar businessmen and professional jobs in the community. For this effort, Fennell received the Philadelphia Award and Medal in 1975. He was the only dentist to receive this prestigious award.
Fennell’s mission of helping people was applauded throughout the community with him receiving many awards such the Citizens Award, the United States Civil Service Commission Award, the Humanitarian Award and the “Volunteer of the Year” award from the Health and Welfare Council.
Fennell’s passion for running led him to serve as chairman of the Red Cross Race since its inception. During the last three years of its running, the race was named in his honor, The Dr. Perry C. Fennell Jr. Race for Red Cross 5K.
He was the third president of New Era Dental Society, the local chapter of the National Dental Association which educates the public about good oral health and provides scholarships for minority dental students.
Fennell worked with Dr. Floyd Baker and others to help bring the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures mobile van to Philadelphia, providing oral health screening and education to neighborhood youth.
He served as secretary of the local chapter of the Gideons International.
Fennell was very loyal and generous to family, friends and colleagues. He gave his time and money to help others.
Fennell enjoyed golfing and running. He loved to run, rain or shine, with the Martin Luther King track walkers and runners. He ran in several Broad Street Run races, as well as many other races including one marathon. While running, Fennell always looked for pennies and collected jars and jars of them. His family said he always felt it was a special day when he found a penny, which was most days of his life.
Fennell had a healthy lifestyle, so it came as quite a surprise when he got lupus at age 69. In the middle of his lupus journey, he was inspired to write his autobiography. “Reflection of a Closet Christian.”
He was an active member of the West Philadelphia High School reunion committee for years. It organized gatherings every year at the Penn Relays and in Carroll Park.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Gloria Burnett Fennell; daughters Dr. Renee Fennell Dempsey and Denise Adams; grandchildren Safiyah Adham and Kareem Adham; sister Barbara Flythe and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held Dec. 1 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 5732 Race St. Viewing is at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 11 a.m.
The family requests memorial donations be made in Dr. Fennell’s name to the New Era Dental Society Scholarship Fund. Donations can be made online at www.neweradentalsociety.org or mailed to New Era Dental Society, c/o Dr. Stephanie Clark, 7601 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19119.