Joan H. Fencl, 83, school crossing guard beloved by her students

Joan Fencl
Joan Fencl
Posted: May 16, 2014

THE KIDS who attended St. Jerome Parochial School at Holme Circle always knew that no matter what - rain or shine, winter, spring or fall - they were going to get across the street safely.

That was because of the devotion of crossing guard Joan H. Fencl. For 20 years, Joan was always on the job, getting the students across the street, treating them with loving care, because, quite simply, she loved them - and they knew it.

Once, when her husband, George J. Fencl, who became a legend as head of the police civil-affairs squad, received a promotion, he told his wife she didn't have to work anymore.

"Yeah, when you quit your job, I'll quit mine," she snapped.

Did we mention that she had a feisty side? She never hesitated to speak her mind.

"You always knew where she stood," said her son George J. Fencl Jr., a retired police officer. "She was very outspoken."

Joan H. Fencl, who served on the committee of judges that chose the recipients of the annual Daily News George Fencl Award, and later a human-resources secretary for the Philadelphia Gas Works, died Saturday. She was 83 and lived in Academy Gardens in the Northeast.

The Fencl Award, started in 1986, was presented annually to police officers who reflected the qualities of efficiency and service epitomized by Fencl, who died in 1985 at age 59 as a chief inspector.

Fellow judges never had to wonder what Joan thought of a given candidate. She gave her opinion loud and clear.

Joan's long devotion to the students of St. Jerome Parochial School, at Holme Avenue and Stamford Street, took in several generations.

"I ran into a lot of police officers she guided," her son said.

One was Lt. Tom Wixted, now with the narcotics squad. She walked him across the street from first grade to eighth.

"I loved your mother," he told George. "She was always there."

Joan knew the names of all the kids, and kept a towel in her car for them if it was raining. She also gave them snacks and candy.

The former Joan Maloney was a proud Irish wife and mother. Because of his job, her husband often worked long hours.

"He might come home at 2 in the morning," her son said. "And she'd jump out of bed and fix his dinner. She was unbelievable. We used to be amazed at her energy, how she put up with three kids and her husband's crazy hours. She was from the old school.

"We lost our father, but we always had our mother."

Joan was proud of her husband's accomplishments, and happy when her son followed in his footsteps. George Jr. recently retired from the force. His last assignment was as a narcotics investigator.

Joan was born to Louis and Helen Maloney in a house on Cambridge Street in West Philadelphia. Her father was an ice delivery man. She graduated from Overbrook High School.

When she married George Fencl, she converted from Baptist to Catholic, a fact very much opposed by her father, who refused to give her away at the wedding in St. Jerome. However, as she went down the aisle, she found him sitting in the back.

Any rancor was quickly healed. Her father died at age 46.

Joan's daughter, Joanne M. Fencl, who recently retired as a supervisor with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, said her mother "cared about people. She took on their problems. She helped everyone, and always put us kids ahead of herself."

"She made sure we had everything," she said. "There was always dinner on the table. She took us shopping and bought us things that she never had."

Lorenzo T. Biggs Sr., Daily News editorial assistant, became close to Joan when he helped organize the Daily News Fencl Award. He said she became "like a second mother to me."

They had long talks about the Police Department and other subjects, and became great friends.

"She was extremely proud of her family, cared about how the city viewed the Police Department and had a great sense of humor," Lorenzo said.

Besides her son and daughter, she is survived by another son, Joseph L. Fencl; five grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; and her companion, John Yike.

Services: 11 a.m. today at John F. Fluehr and Sons Funeral Home, 3301 Cottman Ave. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery.

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