Harold F. Fennell, 76, provided scholarships to 22 graduates

August 30, 1999|By Sarah Pekkanen | Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

Harold Francis Fennell, a retired Baltimore parks superintendent who provided scholarships for 22 high school graduates last spring, died Thursday of injuries he suffered in a fall on his favorite golf course, Forest Park in Baltimore. He was 76.

Born in Harrells, N.C. -- a town he jokingly claimed was named after him -- Mr. Fennell worked for the Parks and Recreation Department of Boston before he came to Baltimore in 1977 as district superintendent for parks, Druid Hill division.

Five years after his 1987 retirement, he and his wife, a former teacher, devised an incentive for 31 schoolchildren at Hilton Elementary School in West Baltimore: If the fifth-graders graduated from high school, each would be given a scholarship.

The Fennells also formed the Hilton Education Club and encouraged the children to study and stay in school.

Last spring, the Fennells attended graduations for 22 of the students, who were each given $1,000 scholarships for college or trade school.

"I guess we fell in love with the class," Mr. Fennell told The Sun in 1992. "You don't have to have a lot of talent or ability to show a child that you care. Years after, they will remember somebody who took a little time with them."

The students of Class 05-02 came to think of him as a surrogate grandfather, said Evonne Gibson, 18, of Edmondson Village. "Anytime we needed him, he'd always be there."

Marcus Roane, 18, of Randallstown said the lure of the scholarship helped pull him out of a ninth-grade slump at Randallstown High School. By the 10th grade, he had made the honor roll. This fall, he'll attend the Catonsville campus of Community College of Baltimore County, where he plans to study business.

"It was unbelievable how he and his wife kept their promise," said Mr. Roane, adding that Mr. Fennell kept in touch through letters and phone calls. "He was a good-hearted person."

In 1995, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke gave Mr. Fennell a Community Fellowship Award.

Last month, Mr. Fennell and his wife were given a standing ovation by the Baltimore City school board.

Mr. Fennell also received commendations for his work as a parks superintendent. A resident who complained about the color of the trash cans lining the Mount Royal Avenue park area was so impressed by his quick response that he wrote a letter to The Sun.

"Quickly, quietly, and without fanfare, [he] had the trash containers repainted a pleasing bronze mahogany," the 1982 letter stated. "No neighborhood meetings, no phone calls, no debates and no petitions were required."

A former semiprofessional golfer, Mr. Fennell managed Pine Ridge Golf Course and won Baltimore's annual Publinx Golf Championship in the 1980s. After his retirement, he split his time between North Baltimore and Sun City, Ariz., where he could play golf during the winter.

He was a Golden Heritage member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and was a member of the Baltimore Urban League and the U.S. Golf Association.

He was a member of the Freedom Riders, contingents of blacks and whites sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality who took bus trips through the South to test desegregation practices during the civil rights movement. They often got violent receptions at the bus stations.

Because Mr. Fennell decided to donate his body to science, no funeral service will be held. A memorial service will be held at an undetermined date.

He is survived by his wife, the former Magdalene Barber, whom he married in 1977; and a son, Carlton Rice of Laurel.

Memorial donations may be made to the Harold and Magdalene Fennell Scholarship Fund, care of Associated Black Charities, 1114 Cathedral St., Baltimore 21201.

Pub Date: 8/30/99

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