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Donald H. Fey

October 18, 2015

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Donald H. Fey

Donald H. Fey, 82, of Drexel Hill, a Korean War veteran, former Philadelphia firefighter, and a retired development/fund-raising writer, died Sunday, October 18, of heart failure. Mr. Fey was a professional writer for more than three decades, primarily in the field of development, where he helped raise more than $500 million for schools, hospitals, and public service agencies through proposals and direct mail appeals. In 1992 he retired from Thomas Jefferson University, where he was the director of development communications. He had worked previously at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the senior development writer and science news officer. Prior to that he had been a bureau editor at Business Week. A native Philadelphian and a graduate of Temple University, Mr. Fey also studied at Franklin & Marshall College and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. 

Mr. Fey was the recipient of a Time-Life Award for excellence in copywriting, and in 1995 he published The Complete Book of Fund-Raising Writing (Morris-Lee Publications Group). He lectured on fund-raising writing principles at the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, Swarthmore College, Rowan College, Thomas Jefferson University, and various nonprofit agencies and hospitals. 

Mr. Fey consulted for educational, research, communications, and social service organizations, including The Wistar Institute, Fox Chase Cancer Center, University City Science Center, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Sardi & Bleeker Advertising, Kingswood Advertising, The Morris-Lee Group, the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Wayne Art Center, the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives Franklin Forum, and Schultz & Williams, Inc.

A freelance writer and illustrator, Mr. Fey’s passion for knowledge and the arts extended to a lifelong love of painting and creative writing. On December 1, 1952, Mr. Fey enlisted in the United States Army, where he attended the Army Security Agency’s Cryptanalyst School at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  In October 1953 he was assigned to the 501st Communications Reconnaissance Battalion in Seoul, Korea, where he analyzed, decoded, and translated intercepted military radio communications traffic of the North Korean Army. He also designed and created that unit’s insignia: a Sylvester the Cat over South Korea, looking north. In December 1954 he rose to the rank of Sergeant, and eventually concluded his tour of duty at Arlington Hall Station. He was discharged with the new technical rank of SP2 on November 30, 1955.

He joined the Philadelphia Fire Department (Rescue 1) in the late 1950s and served there until the early 1960s, when he left to pursue his college education. He supported his young family by simultaneously working night shifts at United Parcel Service.

Mr. Fey’s daughter is award-winning writer and actress Tina Fey. A recent PBS program tracing Ms. Fey’s lineage revealed a direct link on her father’s side to John Hewson (b. 1744), a British textile designer who emigrated to Philadelphia at the behest of Benjamin Franklin. Hewson established a business in Kensington that made printed calico, and among his best customers were George and Martha Washington. Hewson was a captain of militia and a hero of the American Revolution.  

Don and his wife, Jeanne, née Xenakes, were married in 1961. Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Peter; daughter, Tina; a sister, Janet; brothers Karl and Hank; and three grandchildren; Alexander, Alice, and Penelope.

A scholarship has been established in honor of Mr. Fey to support returning veterans enrolled in the Temple University School of Media & Communication, Department of Journalism. Gifts to the Donald H. Fey Memorial Scholarship should be sent to Temple University, P.O. Box 827651, Philadelphia PA 19182-7651. Please make checks payable to "Temple University - Donald H. Fey Memorial Scholarship."

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