Marjorie Best Fenner

Marjorie Best Fenner

07-24-1924 - 12-30-2017

Biography: Marjorie Josephine Fenner was born on July 24, 1924 to Mary Elizabeth Vanterpool and James Gillead in the beautiful St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. At the tender age of five months, she was brought to America, New York City, in her father’s loving arms. The ship travelled for four days before reaching New York harbor and was one of the last to bring immigrants to Ellis Island - the gateway of over 12 million immigrants into the United States.

Mrs. Fenner was the last survivor of seven siblings. As a young woman she worked as a seamstress, sewing military garments and was most proud of her contributions to World War II. 

She married John Bess, a Harlem photographer, and bore two beautiful children. Diane Mary Bess, who later become a registered pediatric nurse, and John Henry Bess III, who was an avid community activist. While the children were still young, her first husband died unexpectedly, leaving her to raise two children bravely on her own.

However, Marjorie once again found romance and married Alwyn Fenner, a World War II Navy veteran. She then gave birth to Austin Evans Fenner, who became a respected New York City journalist, and her sole survivor. She is also survived by her grandchildren Kahlil Bess and Aaron Higgins. 

Marjorie was part of the Lindy Hop Generation and had a passion for dancing. A true New Yorker, she loved the energy, the diversity, and the life of living in New York City. She derived most of her greatest pleasure from spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Central Park. 

Marjorie Fenner lived a rich life, later becoming a travel queen. This Harlem girl soaked in the majestic and breathtaking locales of Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and even visited the nude beaches of St. Maarten.

She was a peaceful woman, who walked through the world with effortless grace. 

The family would like to thank friends and family for their condolences and the medical staff at the Amsterdam House.
In lieu of flowers, friends can make a donation in the name of Marjorie Fenner to the Organiztion for International Development, which provides health care services to impoverished communities in the Caribbean.
The website is


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