Remembering Robert

To the Editor:

Mourning the passing of Robert Feller, 90 years young: Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, he lived in Bayside for nearly 60 years. His very first job was working with his father Harry and mother Sadie at their Richmond Hill store, Feller’s Ladies Shop, at 102-59 Jamaica Ave. While growing up, Robert saw Harry the inventor in action; Robert’s passion for all things engineering-related was born. He lived above the store, graduated from Richmond Hill High School, graduating in 1944 from NYU’ College of Engineering, with a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering. Robert’s contributions to the WWII effort were focused on aiding the Bulova Watch Corporation’s crash program to fabricate advanced timer devices for use on bombs and other ordinance.

In 1947 Robert met his beautiful future bride, Sylvia, on the sands of Long Beach, right in front of the Lido Hotel, and they married in 1949. Sylvia was born to and raised by Sadie at 346 East 17th Street in Manhattan. Sylvia was an actress before meeting Robert., and continued her acting and directing career while living in Japan in the 1950s. Robert and Sylvia raised their two sons in Bayside, Queens. Sylvia died at the young age of 65 at Englewood Hospital, NJ, on Sept. 24, 1992.

Robert’s successes as a leading post-war engineer ran in parallel to the momentous changes underway within the world economy. The Atoms for Peace program, initiated by Pres. Eisenhower, meant a focus on designing and building the first medical and commercial reactors. On Nov 17, 1955, while working at Combustion Engineering headquarters, Robert received “Q” Clearance, for access to secrets, from the Atomic Energy Commission’s Nuclear Power Division. His two-year stint in Japan was prompted by the West’s early post-war business openings to Asia. US-based American Machine and Foundry Corp. sent him (with Sylvia and Matthew) to help lead an expert team tasked with developing that country’s first reactor, which in the decades following provided medical isotopes for Japan’s health care organizations. (By 1955, AMF was awarded its fifteenth reactor project.)

As the focus shifted toward providing fuels for the growing global economy, Robert joined Electric Bond and Share Company (EBASCO), which was pioneering new approaches to solving complex engineering problems. From the nuclear he transitioned to the environmental and chemical, as the economic focus shifted. At Chemeco Corp and Envirotech Corp he worked with teams on the process engineering for hydrocarbon facilities located as far away as Algeria and Alaska and as close to home as Lebanon, PA. His final employer was General Electric, where he worked . After retiring from GE wis very last project was as the on-site consultant to the Port Authority’s prime contractor working to complete a major facility expansion of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) line connecting NY and NJ.

Robert was the loving father of Matthew and Gordon; the husband of Sylvia Feller; the brother to Jean Dick and Sherman Feller; the grandfather to Hillary Feller, Ethan Feller, Daphne Feller, Jessie Feller; father-in-law to Mary Feller and Susan Feller; the friend and teacher to many. His loving kindnesses will all be sorely missed.
Robert’s many productive decades were focused on his growing family. In that context, doing the smart thing was great, but that was never enough. Although Robert was always focused on the doing, the real question for him was doing it right, and doing it for the right reasons, with all the right outcomes.

Gordon Feller,