Eddie I. Fennell III, a Whitman College Dining Services employee, died of double pneumonia on March 8. He was 40.
Fennell had recently completed 15 years of service to the University, and he was to be recognized for his years of service on March 27 at a Service Recognition Luncheon, the University’s Human Resources website said.
For students such as Jonathan Ma ’15, Fennell was a staple to their day.
“I met Eddie, I believe, my sophomore year because I would eat at Whitman just like any underclassman would to get lunch occasionally,” Ma said. “I would ask him how his day was when I was getting food — he was a very positive, nice guy. We would talk a lot about sports … I learned this past year he coaches his son’s basketball team.”
Ma said that Fennell’s death was a surprise for him, noting that the Whitman staff had told him Fennell had left to go to the hospital one day after coming to work with some chest pains and that, at the time, Fennell thought he just had a cold.
“I believe this was a Friday, and according to them he never came back,” Ma said. “It was a cold that turned really bad. He was at a hospital for more than a month. All of a sudden, a couple of weeks ago, we got the news that he passed away.”
Ma added that Fennell’s death would presumably be very hard for his family, especially his sons.
Fennell left behind a wife, Phylis, and two sons, Eddie IV and Philip.
Martha A. Robinson, Fennell’s mother, said she would miss her son very much and that she was appreciative of his colleagues for reaching out to his family, noting that many of his coworkers went to his funeral and wrote her letters.
“He was the best son any mother could ever have,” Robinson said. “He was my gentle giant because he was a little over 6-foot. He was very kind, and such a good father and a good husband.”
Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu, the dean of Whitman, said that although the entire University community will miss Fennell, his family at Whitman will especially miss him.
“Here at Whitman, it’s really a family atmosphere, and that includes all of the folks who work in Dining and Building Services,” she said. “Of course, it’s a great loss for our community when someone passes. Eddie was always a smiling face. He made delicious food, was always a pleasure to talk to in the dining hall, and we all mourn his passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”