#13 Uncle Paul

Paul John Fennell

b. 8/14/1909 San Francisco, CA
d. 11/1983 Napa, CA

Paul was your typical Irish San Franciscan bachelor. My first memory of my Uncle Paul was that he lived with my grandpa (Martin Fennell), whom he called, “Bud”.  I asked my uncle why he called my grandfather “Bud” and his reply was that they were ” buddies”.  In fact, my grandfather thought his name was Bud until he started school and the Nuns sternly informed him his name was Martin and that was the name he was to respond to and no other.  Uncle Paul also had a tattoo of a hula dancer that read U.S. Navy under her.  I was fascinated by this tattoo and remember always wanting to get a peek of it.

When I say typical Irish San Franciscan, I mean; never married, drank often, spent time at the neighborhood bar and always lived with a sibling for a time then would live with another.  He loved and spoiled all his nieces and nephews.

The third of four children of Martin Fennell and Mary Cobine, living in a beautiful house on Parnassus Ave, along with his maternal grandmother Kate Cobine and Aunt Anne Cobine until she married.  At the age of 12 his mother died and at that time my grandfather 14 had to quit school to drive a milk wagon to earn money for the family and stay home to be with the younger children.  Their father unfortunately was consumed with grief and ran his mason and building business to the ground and lost the house they were living in.  The children were cared for by aunts and uncles in the city, however, they “had each other” as my uncle used to say.

In 1941 WWII – Paul enlisted in the Navy and served throughout the war in the South Pacific.  Five months of service were with the Commander 1st Group Thirteen Amphibious Forces – Iwo Jima.  Also Participating Flotillia Five campaigns in New Guinea.

Uncle Paul & baby Kathleen at baptism in SF

Uncle Paul holding my Aunt Kathy (baptismal pic w/godfather 12/1941) – Kathleen Ann Fennell

Paul must have loved being at sea because as soon as the war was over he signed up with the Merchant Marines for many years.  When he was home for leave (San Francisco) he would stay at my widower grandfather’s house with my dad and aunt.  My aunt told me he would drive her to her dancing lesson, it wasn’t until years later the rumor of his affair with her dance teacher was revealed.  As my mom would say, “still waters run deep”.

In 1965, Paul was out on a ship somewhere and a wire was delivered simply stated –   “Baby Boy Fennell”, born March 15, 7 pounds exactly.  The shipmates surprised my uncle by throwing a party and breaking into the mess for the ice cream.  He didn’t have the heart to tell them the child was his great nephew, not his own.

My Uncle died in Yountville Veterans Hospital in Napa California in 1983.  He is buried in the Veterans Cemetery in San Bruno, CA with his brother Edwin whom also served in WWII Navy.

I love this picture, he was always sitting at the Formica table in my grandfather’s kitchen, smoking a cigarette, having drink and looking at the newspaper.

I feel it’s important to write and remember the ancestors that didn’t have children.  My bachelor Uncle was a hero in war time and fought for our country, he was a strong influence in the raising of my father and aunt when his brother became a widower and he traveled more and had experience that we’ll never know.

Uncle Paul in grandpa's kitchenscan0001



3 thoughts on “#13 Uncle Paul

  1. Karen B April 24, 2014 / 3:41 am

    Excellent point about remembering the relatives with no children. I have two aunts that you’ve inspired me to write about! Thanks!

  2. kessara April 24, 2014 / 4:15 pm

    Very well written! I enjoyed this piece.

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