Samuel George Fellenz, Sr., 86, of Ocean, NJ departed this life after suffering from complications of heart disease. He was born December 5, 1933 in Wilmington, NC to his much beloved mother, Lelia Fellenz, and his dad, George Fellenz, the latter of whom died when he was but 3.
He was the big brother of his much beloved brother, Morris Fellenz. Morris was a blue boy who died at age 12 after an early open heart surgery procedure at New York’s Lennox Hill Hospital. The surgery was paid for in part with the pennies, nickels and dimes of the children of Asbury Park’s West Side community.
Sam or Sammy as he was best known to his friends and the Asbury Park and Neptune communities that were his life and history, grew up on DeWitt Avenue in the City with his mother, his brother, his late maternal aunt, Nan, and her three deceased children, Charles Jefferson, Alice Jefferson Perry, and Delores Jefferson Williams. Though not wealthy in dollars, they were rich in love, mutual respect and the manners and principle of caring for each other and others that were traditions of the southern upbringing Sam’s mother and aunt brought to their home. Sam was known for pulling his brother Morris to school each day in a wagon due to his illness, even in heavy snow.
Sam married the love of his life, Gail Carol Willitt, in 1954. He adored her and was lost whenever she was away from him. From their union of 65 years, five children were born – Diane Jeanette, Morris “Man” (Judy), Kim Andre (Kathleen), Samuel George Jr. (Doris), and Terrence Eldridge (Anita). Sam was also privileged to have two older children, Bryan Atlantic, deceased, and Patricia Wingo-Johnson, Whiting, NJ.
Sam was a family man before all else. He is fondly remembered for the many cookouts he put together at his former Myrtle Avenue address in Neptune that had abundant family, neighbors, and friends always present. He had a passion for the lives of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. And he had many other passions, hobbies and pursuits over the years, including regularly chasing fire engines to the scenes of community fires no matter what the hour; training his dogs, particularly his beautiful Belgian shepherd Satan, whose name the family pretended was Belgian for something else; raising koi fish in a small pond; following professional boxing; immersing himself in Western TV shows; CB radio when it was a national fad as he engaged and playfully talked trash to other CBers late into the morning hours with the huge antenna he mounted on the roof of his home; financing and managing a Doo Wop group; playing the Millipede arcade game at Mincie’s, and later on his own machine in his garage; and approaching any stranger or group of strangers anywhere to astound them with his numbers games. More important though than all his hobbies and other pursuits was the time he spent with his extended family of neighbors and friends.
If nothing else, Sam was a people person. He loved people, and he loved joking and talking with his neighbors and friends. 431 Myrtle Avenue was a venue where he spent many the part of a day engaged in ribaldry and other conversation and story-telling with Cappy Wilson, Marion Whittaker, Tom Whittaker, Eddie Snead, Rudy Wilson, Ally Whittaker, Morris Clay, and anyone else who took the time to take a seat on the porch or steps of that home. And there was Ms. Gladys, Mary Whittaker, Geneva Whittaker (Sister), Carol and Paula Whittaker, Butch Wilson, and Lannie Wilson, and Linda Wilson whose conversations Sam would take up time and again. His friends marked his life as they were the many who knew him from childhood through the last years of his life. They knew his history, and he knew theirs. They include Mike Todd, Bill Griffin, Walter Wester, Ernie Taylor, David Jones, Lee Davis, Bill Reed, Leon Williams, “Tootsie” Garrett, Moe Keel, Jimmy Williams, John Gray, Luther Markham, Daniel Gates, Eddie Lillard, Mason Marshall, their wives, children, and many others, all loved and appreciated by Sam for their wit and lifelong camaraderie.
Sam attended the Asbury Park school system, including the Bangs Avenue grammar school at a time when it was still fully segregated. He was born and raised Anglican, having served as an altar boy and acolyte at Asbury Park’s historic St. Augustine Church, PE. He was a member of Boy Scouts Troop 44, then the second oldest scout troop in Monmouth County, a black led and membered troop in which many of his friends participated as did later his sons.
He left Asbury Park High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army, from which he was honorably discharged. Upon returning to Monmouth County, he became one of the first black members of Carpenters Local 2250, Red Bank, NJ, though he and others like him faced near daily discrimination on the job. He operated a home and business repair and remodeling business and eventually became an accomplished plumber.
He sold Christmas trees on a busy Springwood Avenue from what seemed like a jungle of trees he would create. Always resourceful, when his truck became disabled one Christmas season, he cut the back out of a car sedan, made a truck out of it to transport trees, and even drove his kids to Ridge Avenue school on a cold and snowy day to their chagrin as they ducked and tried to hide from being seen in his self-made truck.
He often noted that in the pre-riot Asbury Park, there was plenty of business along and around Springwood Avenue for any small business or home and business repair mechanic. That was the thriving community that he was raised and shaped in and raised his family in. He was known for his kindness as he in many cases would not charge or charged a significantly lower price for his labor for people struggling financially, particularly the elderly.
Sam was predeceased by his son, Morris whom he was immensely proud of and called Man, and by his oldest son, Bryan. He is survived by his wife, Gail Fellenz, five children, Patricia Wingo-Johnson, Diane Jeanette Fellenz, Kim Andre Fellenz (Kathleen), Samuel George Fellenz, Jr. (Doris), Terrence Eldridge Fellenz (Anita), grandchildren, Kellee Rodriguez nee Fellenz (Jose), Feron McGee (Laura), Ricky Cordero (Mariela), Charisse Fellenz, Kim Fellenz, Jr. (Victoria), Chazz Fellenz (Sabrina), Diane G. Fellenz, Ariety Fellenz, Taylor Fellenz, Bryan Atlantic, Jr. (Kristen), Tyrone Johnson and Nicole Johnson, along with twenty great grandchildren.
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