To view a livestream of the service, please click the link below.
Edwin J. Feiler, Jr., a fourth-generation Georgia real estate developer, civic activist, and the founder of Leadership Savannah, died Wednesday at his home in Savannah after a long struggle with Parkinson’s. He was 86.
As Feiler described himself at the start of his recently completed memoir, A Professional Savannahian: “I was born on January 23, 1935, in Savannah, Georgia, and my life, in one way or another, has revolved around this city, which I love, and which my family has been a part of for more than a century and a half.”
Edwin Jacob Feiler, Jr. was the first child and elder son of attorney Edwin J. Feiler, Sr., originally from Meridian, Mississippi, and Aleen Wolf Feiler, a mathematics teacher from Savannah. Feiler’s younger brother, Stanley Wolf Feiler, was born in 1938, and the family lived on 49th Street, near Daffin Park.
A collector of stamps and builder of model airplanes who rose to become an Eagle Scout, Feiler attended Charles Ellis Elementary School, Washington Avenue Junior High School, and Savannah High School, from which he graduated with honors in 1952. He received a Naval ROTC scholarship to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a B.S. in Economics and was inducted into two national honor societies. He was an active member of the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity, whose brothers became lifelong friends.
Foreshadowing what would become a robust career focusing on creative solutions to longstanding problems in Savannah, Feiler wrote his senior college thesis on “Building Low-Cost Housing in Savannah.” “I turned in my thesis on the first day of fall semester,” he wrote. “My professor told me that many students over the years had told him they would do such a thing, but no one had. Still, he graded the paper an A- due to some typos I made on the manual typewriter.”
Feiler was a commissioned officer in the United States Navy from 1956-1959, serving aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin and at the U.S. Naval Station in Annapolis, Maryland. After a decade as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, he spent the rest of his life as an enthusiastic booster of the Navy, including serving for many years on the committee that selected nominees to the service academies from the state of Georgia.
In 1952, Feiler was introduced to Jane Carol Abeshouse of Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of urologist Dr. Benjamin Samuel “Bucky” Abeshouse and Carolyn Kehrmann Abeshouse. As Feiler later wrote, “I especially adored Jane’s obvious artistic talents and excellent taste.” The two dated for several years, corresponded while he was at sea, and were married in Baltimore on June 15, 1958.
After returning to Savannah the following year, Feiler began working alongside his father at Metro Developers, Inc., where he served as president for the next half a century. Feiler developed, leased, and managed commercial real estate; managed multi-family properties across the southeast; and, following some of the ideas in his senior thesis, designed, constructed, and sold over 1,000 single-family homes, including in Feiler Park on Savannah’s west side.
Through his work with the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, DC, Feiler developed a deep knowledge and love of politics. He advised numerous local, state, and national elected officials; visited the White House on multiple occasions; and testified before Congress. He was a member of the Georgia delegation at four Democratic Pary presidential nominating conventions, and donated the photographs he took on those occasions to the Georgia Historical Society.
What Feiler called his “single proudest accomplishment in life” was his role in founding Leadership Savannah, the pioneering leadership development organization that he created at the request of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce in 1976. Feiler agreed to take on the challenge with one condition: The membership and the programs had to be “balanced.” As he would later write, “I told the Chamber that this commitment to balance meant that we must have racial and gender diversity, along with financial diversity, including scholarships for those who could not pay the cost.”
The program has been in continual operation for the last 45 years, training more than 1,600 participants to be future leaders of Savannah. In recognition of this service, along with that of his wife, Jane, who later led the program, Mayor Edna Jackson in 2015 issued a proclamation commending the husband-and-wife team for their ”unwavering service to the citizens of Savannah.”
Feiler’s other civic activities included serving on the Savannah Economic Development Authority board of directors, the Savannah Film Commission, Leadership Georgia, Emory University board of visitors, and the Defense Orientation Conference Association.
A lifelong member and champion of Temple Mickve Israel, Feiler served in numerous leadership positions, including three years as president beginning in 1979. He was also a passionate photographer, reader, and traveler, who loved sharing slide shows to community groups of his visits to over 40 countries.
Feiler was the proud father (and “cheerleader”) of three children: Andrew Benjamin Feiler, a real estate developer and photographer, based in Atlanta, whose recent book, A Better Life for their Children, received widespread national acclaim; Bruce Stephen Feiler, the bestselling author and TV host of such works as Walking the Bible and Council of Dads, who now lives in Brooklyn; and Cari Feiler Bender, who was recently inducted into the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Hall of Fame, where she lives. Feiler had a loving relationship with their spouses, Laura Adams, Linda Rottenberg, and Rodd Bender; and he enjoyed spending summers on his beloved Tybee Island with his four grandchildren, Max and Hallie Bender; Eden and Tybee Feiler.
In his memoir, Feiler explains the origin of his nickname. “Some years ago I began the practice of writing ‘Savannah’ under my name on name tags whenever I was at events away from home. I was proud of my hometown, and seeing the name often provoked interesting conversations among the people I met.”
After attending a party in Atlanta in the 1990s, Feiler’s grown sons commented on his habit of mentioning Savannah wherever he went.
“I’m a professional Savannahian,” he said.
“The nickname stuck. It’s an honor I have been proud to carry.”
***A private graveside ceremony will be held at 2 pm on Sunday, October 17, with a public memorial service to be announced in the future. The graveside ceremony will be available for viewing via livestream at this link: my.gather.app/remember/edwin-jacob-feiler-jr. The family will be accepting visitation at home from 4:00 – 6:00 pm on Sunday and Monday and kindly requests that all attendees be vaccinated and masked.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made “In memory of Ed Feiler” to Congregation Mickve Israel, P.O. Box 816, Savannah, GA, 31402; The Leadership Savannah Scholarship Fund, c/o Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, P.O. Box 1628, Savannah, GA, 31402; or Hospice Savannah, P.O. Box 13190, Savannah, GA 31416. Telephone or internet donations are also accepted.
To : Jane Fieler & Family, Wishing you all strength, peace and comfort. Sincerely Debra Davis ( Ed’s caregiver 8a-3p Mon - Fri) RIP Ed !!!!
- Debra Davis, Savannah , Georgia
I feel so very fortunate to have so many fond memories with Mr. Feiler and your family. My time at MDI was wonderful, memory making and I will always value so many lessons that I've learned from EJF Jr. (and family). Prayers, Love and Hugs to you all!
- Megan (Brown) Thompson, Claxton/Savannah, GA
What a prince Mr Feiler is ,organizing the affordable housing for very humble appreciative people. He rests, but still speaks from the skills and insight he has passed down to his family and real estate developers. Managing the housing needs is such a noble contribution to humanity; which is an ongoing project. When Mr. Feiler returns in the resurrection , he will be delighted to assist the ones who will be rising from the dust to enjoy eternity. Isaiah 26:19 When God calls ,Mr Feiler will answer Job 14:14 . He truly loves people and will be remembered forever. Abraham was considered as good as alive due to the resurrection promise. We can never forget all the amazing things Mr. Feiler accomplished. Please be comforted with the brochure : “Enjoy Life Forever” at JW.com My heart goes out to the family, Sandy Wirfs
- Sandy Wirfs, Monroe,, Louisiana
On behalf of the hearts of the entire staff at Compassionate Professional Home Care, LLC and Caregivers: Latrisse Davis, Stephanie Stephens, Awhorh Washington, Chantez Williams, Debra Davis, Thelma Shellman, and Sarab Bowman; we extend heartfelt condolences. Wishing you courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to hold in your heart forever. This message is typed with love, care, and remembrance of Mr. Edwin “Ed” J. Feiler, Jr.
- Compassionate Professional Home Care, LLC, Garden City , GA
Ronnie and I are so sorry to learn about the passing of your dad. We hope that the passage of time brings consolation for this great loss to you and your family. Love from all the Ackman's.
- Lawrence Ackman, New York, NY
Jane and family, my deep condolences for your loss.
- Jeanne Armstrong, Atlanta, GA
We'll miss Ed and his smile. Truly a mensch. We pray for him and for peace and solace to his wonderful family.
- Roger Von Duyke, Savannah, GA
Mr. Feiler was a great neighbor on 46th street and Tybee to all of the Lyons family. Our love to the Feiler family. Holly Lyons Whitfield
- Holly Lyons Whitfield , Savannah , Ga
I was the staff person for NAHB’s Commercial Builders Council when Ed Feiler was an active member of the Council. Ed was the epitome of a gentleman. Kind, soft spoken and smart. It was my honor to work with him and to hear him speak of his love for his family, his city,and his beloved Tybee Island. My condolences. May his memory be a blessing.
- Carmel Nayman, Delray Beach, FL
To the FEILER family I was so sorry to learn of your recent loss. Ed and I were Wharton School classmates(W ‘56) although not fraternity brothers. I, along with other several other members of ZBT, always considered Ed to be a very special person. We would keep in touch from time to time, and I especially recall stopping in Savannah to visit him for a few hours. His pride in “his city of Savannah” was most evident as he took my wife and me on a personal tour of the city. I also recall how he loved his Tybee Island retreat almost as much as he loved each and every member of his family. That love was returned to him ten-fold
- Donald Roskoph, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Deepest sympathy Bonnie Cleland
- Bonnie Cleland, Rincon, GA
Steven, Andrea, Sabrina, Zoe and Jasmine send heartfelt sympathy to Jane and to all of the wonderful Feiler family. As close friends of Bruce and Linda, we were extremely fortunate to have spent quality time with Ed in his and Jane’s beautiful Tybee Island home. Ed was a gracious host, entertaining us with stories about his life and about his beloved city of Savannah. His legacy will live on in his amazing children and grandchildren as well as in the countless lives he touched. May Ed’s memory eternally be a blessing.
- Andrea & Steven Mail, Jacksonville, FL
Ed had a life well lived. My fondest memory of him is when he visited me in Norman's NYC bachelor apartment and wanted to know how many locks on the front door were needed to keep us safe. We had three. Norman and I send love and condolences to Jane, Andrew, Bruce and Cari...a wonderful family.
- Judy Cohn & Norman Poser, New York, NY
Services under the direction of:
Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel
- A Private Service Will Be Held