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Glass magnate Frank Fenton dies


August 10, 2005



Parkersburg News, Parkersburg, WV


WILLIAMSTOWN - Amid a time of celebration at Fenton Art Glass came a great loss Tuesday.

Frank M. Fenton, 89, died Tuesday afternoon leaving a wonderful legacy to the Fenton family, the Fenton Art Glass Co., the Fenton Museum and the glass collectors around the world.
"He was a great leader and certainly provided a lot of support and advice," said his son George Fenton, CEO and current president of Fenton Art Glass. "He was personally very caring and, in business, very wise and very astute."

The Fenton family will hold a visitation at the First United Methodist Church in Williamstown Friday from 6 -8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at the church.

Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford said the loss of Fenton, former Fenton Art Glass president, was devastating. He was a pillar of the community and an integral part of the city. Ford learned of Fenton's death when she returned from dinner around 8:45 p.m. to find a message from the Fentons on her answering machine.

"He was one of the dearest people who cared about people so much and cared about the town. He was just a very caring person and no doubt one of the nicest gentlemen I ever met. He was always doing something for the town," she said.

In fact, Fenton donated five acres that will become Fenton Park. The project has progressed slowly due to recent flooding problems, she said.

"You can just look around all over the town and see his kindness and goodness," Ford said. "That's really what he lived for, his family, his business and the people in the town. This was his home."

Ford said Fenton often visited her at city hall. She said she always enjoyed his company and his good nature.

"He would come in and sit down and talk about how things got started and how things have developed. He loved our town. He will be greatly missed. In fact, it just won't seem the same without him," she said.

Harold Burdette, a longtime employee of Fenton Art Glass, said he remembers Fenton from his early days at the factory. Fenton was one of a kind, Burdette said.

"I remember Frank from way back, probably 53 years. He was a good man," he said. "Everybody liked Frank in the old days. He was a kind person."

Burdette said he cannot imagine what work will be like today at the factory as news of Fenton's death continues to spread.

Fenton Art Glass is continuing a 100th anniversary celebration throughout 2005 with special glass productions. The celebration kicked off in Williamstown July 29, but Fenton was too ill to attend. His most recent public appearance at the factory was with Gov. Joe Manchin's May visit to help commemorate the company's 100th year.

Fenton was the fifth child and first son of Frank L. Fenton, founder of Fenton Art Glass. He was born Dec. 1, 1915 in the original family home on Williams Avenue. He attended grade school in Williamstown, but crossed over to Marietta, to attend high school.

He entered Marietta College in September 1932 during the Depression and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1936.

Frank first began working for the company while in college. He tried several times to get a summer job at the factory, but his father turned him down, saying others needed the work more than he did. Finally, he was given a position by his uncle.

Long after he became president, someone asked him if he started at the bottom and worked his way up. His reply?

"No, I started at the top...and worked down," according to the company's Web site.

For nearly four decades, Frank along with his brother Bill headed Fenton Art Glass, and the organization grew from a modest business to a company known worldwide for its innovative products, the Web site states.

According to the Fenton Web page, Frank's latest role was as a Fenton Art Glass historian. He spoke to collector clubs and did a great deal of research, tasks he truly loved.


Frank Fenton, speaks to Gov. Joe Manchin during Fenton Art Glass Co.'s 100th Anniversary celebration festivities in May. (News and Sentinel File Photo)

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Visitors to Fenton Art Glass will find a spacious Gift Shop and a pleasant museum. Free factory tours (M-F 8:15am to 4:00pm) take small groups of guests right out to the factory floor to see glassmaking "up close and personal." Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides explain all aspects of the operation. The Fenton tour has been ranked among the "top 10" factory tours nationwide by USA Today. In addition we have been named Rand McNally Best of the Road for 2006. For a factory tour schedule, click here. For a map, click here.


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