Dr. John E. Fenn

john fenn

October 14, 1932 ~ April 20, 2022

Born in: New Haven, CT
Resided in: Hamden, CT

FENN, John E., M.D., age 89, beloved husband of Natalie Fenn for 63 years, died on April 20, 2022 at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He leaves his daughter, Linda Fenn Brill (Dan), his son, William Fenn (Sue), four grandchildren, Emily Fenn Lannon (Chris), Lindsay Fenn, Olivia Fenn, and Isabelle Fenn, two step-grandchildren, Adam Brill (Shannon), Sarah Wiggins (Jason) and six step-great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his sister, Myrna Fenn Baskin. John was born in New Haven on October 14, 1932. He attended local public schools, the Hopkins Grammar School, and then Dartmouth College. He received his MD degree from the Yale School of Medicine in 1961, following which he served at Grace-New Haven Community/Yale-New Haven Hospital as a resident in general surgery and then in cardiothoracic surgery over a period of six years, achieving Board Certification in both specialties. He served on the faculty of the Yale School of Medicine since 1965, practicing his specialty and teaching both residents-in- training and Yale medical students. In 1973, he began a 10-year term as Associate Chief of the Department of Surgery, followed by another 10 years as Chief of Staff of Yale-New Haven Hospital. In 1983, he was promoted to full Clinical Professor. He served in multiple capacities during his professional career, including appointment by the Governor of Connecticut to the State’s Medical Examining Board. He was a member the Board of Directors of Yale-New Haven Hospital and also Whitney Center in Hamden, where he and his wife ultimately resided. He was the author or co-author of many scientific papers, and in 2015 his book about the history of the Yale Department of Surgery, Yale Surgery – Leaders and Legacies, was published. He was the recipient of a number of awards during his lifetime, including the Hamilton Award for Distinguished Service to Connecticut Hospitals and the Health Care Field from the Connecticut Hospital Association, where he had also served on the Board of Directors; the class of 1954 of Dartmouth College; the University of New Haven, from which he received an honorary degree in 1988; and the Yale University School of Medicine, which honored him with the Bohmfalk Award in 2011 by vote of the faculty and medical students as the outstanding teacher of clinical sciences. However, no award brought him more joy than the love of his life, Natalie, and their wonderful children and grandchildren.

Friends are invited to visit with Dr. Fenn’s family at Beecher & Bennett Funeral Home, 2300 Whitney Ave, Hamden on April 24th from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Yale University Department of Surgery, or to the Whitney Center Memorial Fund.


Visitation: April 24, 2022 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Beecher & Bennett Funeral Service - Hamden
2300 Whitney Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518


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Memories Timeline


  1. Dr. Fenn I’m gonna miss you. You were a part of my every morning routine. Coming in your apartment every morning to see you and Natalie was something that I looked forward to now it will never be the same. I promise to take GREAT care of your beloved honey. Your memory will stay alive forever. This really broke 💔 my heart. Rest In Peace my buddy. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽

  2. Dear Fenn family,
    My mother, Elizabeth Greene, a resident of Whitney Center and long time acquaintance of John and Natalie’s, told me of John’s passing last night. I was shocked. It was only five days ago that I was chatting with him as he strolled down “Main Street” at Whitney Center with Natalie, on their way to dinner, his kindness, care, grace, and gentleness so naturally present. That easy, warm, generous smile. I’m so very, very sorry to hear of his passing. I feel like a light has left this world, — but not extinguished, yet to light up some place else — having come to know him during my long-weekend monthly visits over the past 11 years with my mother. I’ve been getting quite emotional writing.
    My mother’s connection with John was through the hospital, as my father, Nicholas Greene, Dept of Anesthesiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital for many years, was a colleague of John’s. John’s sister, Myrna, was a very close friend of my mother’s, and a good friend to me.
    Our heartfelt condolences I send you, and in my thoughts and prayers you and John are there, in a strong and healing light.
    Cynther Greene
    Peacham VT

  3. Dr. Fenn was a legend and one of the most revered Directors of Surgery at Yale-New
    Haven Hospital. In my twenty years of working as a Registered Nurse in the CTICU and general surgical wards, I witnessed the gentle and respectful manner in which he treated both his patients and staff. Along with being humane, Dr. Fenn’s reputation for his outstanding surgical skills and love of teaching was universally acknowledged and admired. He will be rightly remembered for his devotion to saving lives and passing that dedication on to new generations of healthcare providers.

    My sincerest condolences to the entire Fenn family. They lost a truly great man. RIP, and God Bless you Dr. Fenn. Your’s was a life well lived

  4. Years of summers on lake sebago fishing for bass,water skiing and picking blueberries.

    Removing a lure deeply embedded in my leg after it flung like a rocket,from a tree branch,lodging deep into my knee.

    The time Dr Fenn and my father took Billy and myself to see the Godfather movie in the early seventies and looking over to see the tears flowing down our fathers cheeks,Bill and I thought that was hilarious.

    Finding my pet snake crawling across his impeccable lawn.if I was a snake that is the lawn I would want to be in.

    his tools that we borrowed to dig in the caves behind our house,they were obviously missing because they were outlined on the peg board above the work bench.

    A lifetime of memories,growing up next door,to a second set of parents,that I was lucky enough to have.

  5. Bernie Siegel, MD I always felt John was an exceptional human being and surgeon. He cared about people and I appreciated the things he did for their sake. For the first time I see that we were born on the same date and maybe that helps to explain our connection as surgeons and friends. Years ago I had one our our young children spend time in the OR during vacation time to keep him busy and help the nurses. John called me and said children don’t belong in the operating room. I asked him to meet me in the OR and he did. We stood and watched patients being wheeled in and Stephen going to get their records for the nurses. The patients would be frightened about a child having anything to do with their care until they saw he was just helping out and then fear disappeared and smiles too over. John saw the benefit and turned and left. He could see with his heart children could be a benefit in the OR. He was special.

  6. Mrs Fenn,Linda and Billy,
    Please accept my deepest condolences . I share in your loss. The memories of my time with the family have not faded through time nor distance.
    Whether it was shovelling snow, building a remote controlled boat for the pond or putting stereos in cars, Dr. Fenn had ˋthe entire process‘ figured out BEFORE the work began! He was tough to argue with because every detail had been considered. His intelligence, humility, wit and humor will never be forgotten.So very grateful that our paths have crossed and for clocks that seemed to stop keeping time!!
    May God Bless you all.

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