F. Donald Fenhagen Jr., 85, helped create brewery's Mr. Boh symbol

November 01, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

F. Donald Fenhagen Jr., former director of public relations for the National Brewing Co. who was part of a team that created Mr. Boh and a founder of the Center Club, died of Parkinson's disease Wednesday at Roland Park Place, where he had lived since 1996. He was 85.

Mr. Fenhagen was born in Philadelphia, the son of a civil engineer, and moved to Baltimore's Roland Park. In 1929, he moved with his family to Puerto Rico when his father took a position with the United Puerto Rico Sugar Co.

In the early 1930s, he returned to Baltimore and graduated in 1936 from the Gilman School. He attended the University of Virginia for a year but was forced to withdraw after his father died. Mr. Fenhagen went to work in the advertising department of the A.S. Abell Co., then publishers of The Sunpapers.

In 1940, he joined the 110th Field Artillery of the Maryland National Guard. While serving as a sergeant with the 224th Field Artillery Battery, he was sent to Bermuda, where he spent the remainder of World War II and also met his future wife.

He was married in 1944 to the former F. Lilian White, and after the war ended, the couple returned to Baltimore. For many years, they lived in Ruxton and at Elkridge Estates. She died in 1995.

Mr. Fenhagen held several public relations posts before being named advertising and public relations director for Bendix Radio in Towson in 1951.

He joined the now-defunct National Brewing Co. in 1956. It was while working for the company, which brewed National Premium and National Bohemian beer, that he helped create the famous Mr. Boh image and the "Land of Pleasant Living" slogan.

James Holechek, a retired Baltimore public relations executive, recalled Mr. Fenhagen's involvement in the creation of two of Baltimore's most memorable advertising slogans.

"He was part of the team that created Mr. Boh. I remember him telling me that he and Jerry Hoffberger, who was president of National, were flying around the Chesapeake Bay when the phrase `Land of Pleasant Living,' came to them. It went on to become one of the really great national ad slogans," Mr. Holechek said.

Mr. Fenhagen continued working for the company after it became part of Carling National Breweries Inc. In 1976, he left the company when he was appointed vice president of James Holechek Associates.

"He was considered the sage, the H.L. Mencken of the advertising business, and people would hang on every word he had to say. He was a marvelous man and a consummate gentleman," Mr. Holechek said.

In 1980, Mr. Fenhagen joined T.J. Ross & Associates in New York City. He retired in 1983.

He also played a role in the World's Fair that was held during 1964-1965 at Flushing Meadows in Queens, N.Y. Gov. J. Millard Tawes appointed him in 1962 to the five-member committee that planned Maryland's participation at the fair.

A restaurant and snack bar in the Maryland Pavilion that served Chesapeake delicacies became a roaring success, so much so that the state was able to recover much of its $1 million dollar investment.

With 5,000 visitors a day stopping by the restaurant, 1,800 pounds of crabmeat, 4,800 soft crabs and 400 gallons of clam chowder were consumed each week.

"We have accomplished exactly what we have set out to do, to build a pavilion that will attract tourists to Maryland," he told The Sun in 1964.

Mr. Fenhagen was also a founding member of the Center Club in 1963.

"He was a quiet but dynamic man, and was part of a group that included Jerry Hoffberger, who founded the Center Club, the first club for businessmen that did not discriminate on the basis of race or religion," said Mr. Fenhagen's son, F. Donald Fenhagen III of Baltimore.

"He was a very compassionate man and just cared for others. He truly believed everyone was equal. He didn't see color, and this was never an issue with him at all," said his daughter, Pamela Fenhagen Corckran of Roland Park. "He was a very big influence on me, and that's why I went into social work."

He was instrumental in founding the Voluntary Council for Equal Employment and was interested in developing a Jewish-Christian dialogue.

He was a former trustee of the Maryland Hospital Council and had been vice chairman of the Maryland Committee of the John F. Kennedy Library.

Mr. Fenhagen was a Civil War buff and enjoyed visiting battlefields. He was also an avid collector of lead soldiers, which he liked to set up, and worked to compile his family's genealogy.

He was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. today.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Fenhagen is survived by another son, William E. Fenhagen of White Hall; a brother, the Rev. James C. Fenhagen of Washington; and four grandchildren.

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