by Walter Fox
Werner “Fred” Fellner, 92, the former proprietor of Fred’s Mt. Airy Motors, died of congestive heart disease March 17 at Cathedral Village in Andorra, where he had been a resident for the past eight years.
Mr. Fellner, a longtime Mt. Airy resident, had operated auto repair businesses in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy for more than five decades. His first shop, called Fred’s Foreign Car Service, opened at Germantown and Springfield avenues in 1956. He later moved to Moreland Avenue and to the current location at Mt. Airy Avenue and Devon Street in Mt. Airy in 1967.
When he opened his Mt. Airy shop, Mr. Fellner had a Citroen auto dealership. When Citroen stopped selling cars in the United States in the mid-70s, he obtained a Peugeot franchise. When Peugeot went out of business in 1991, he returned to selling and servicing late model used cars.
Born in Germany, Mr. Fellner, his parents and three brothers escaped in 1939 during the Nazi persecution of Jews. Two other brothers, unable to leave, died in the Holocaust.
After spending several years working in England, Canada and Wales, where he met his future wife, Gabi, in a forestry camp, he joined the British Army and served in North Africa during World War II as a mechanic repairing trucks and tanks used in the desert campaign.
After the war, the couple wanted to go to Israel (then Palestine) to work in agriculture, but the British government, which controlled the region, would not provide the necessary documents. They went instead to Philadelphia, where Gabi’s parents and a brother were living, arriving in 1948.
Mr. Fellner worked at several car dealerships in the area before opening his own shop. He was given the name “Fred” by his employees who felt he needed an American name.
Living in West Mt Airy for more than 50 years in a house near Fairmount Park, he was a frequent park visitor and a passionate supporter of Friends of the Wissahickon.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Fellner is survived by sons David and Michael; a brother, Gershon; five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held March 20 at Joseph Levine and Son in Philadelphia, with interment in Montefiore Cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to Friends of the Wissahickon, 8708 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118.