Bucks County Herald

Friends, colleagues, have fond memories of Carl Fonash


When former Bucks County Commissioner Carl Fonash died in July, at age 76, John MacAniff lost a lifelong friend.

“Carl and I were friends for 71 years. I went to grammar school, high school and college with Carl,” MacAniff said. “I haven’t lived in Doylestown since 1962, but Carl and I had many, many years together, with our wives, traveling together.

“He was the best friend I ever had, so his passing is difficult,” he added, his voice breaking with emotion.

The Florida resident said he had visited his dear friend just a week before he died, and rather than complaining about his health, Fonash said he was “fine.” He chose instead to complain about the Phillies loss the previous night.

“He went through an awful lot, but he was always pleasant,” said MacAniff’s older brother, Tom, referring to Fonash’s health struggles. He remembers Fonash as a gifted athlete and a “solid guy.”

“The guy was always true to his word; when he said something, he meant it,” Tom MacAniff said. An attorney, Tom MacAniff represented Central Bucks School District when Fonash served on the school board.

The district had gone through rocky times fiscally, and the board wanted to set up reserves, Tom MacAniff said. With Fonash’s experience working in the financial services industry, “He was important in doing that.

“He was a guy who never sought any recognition. I always considered him very humble, always looking out for the other guy, a great family man. He’ll be missed.”

Peg George, who served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (D-143) from January 1977 to November 1980, called Fonash “good Democrat.”

Fonash was elected to the Central Bucks School Board in 1973, and George, who served on the board from 1969 to 1976, served the latter part of her term with him.

“It always felt good to be in his presence and talk with him,” she said, adding when she won the seat in the state legislature, Carl and his wife, Judi, had a party for her at their house. “I have very fond memories of Carl, and Judi too,” George said.

Andy Warren got to know Fonash when they served together as Bucks County Commissioners – although as members of different political parties.

Carl had a “very dry sense of humor,” Warren said. He recalled the first time they ever met – at the old Bucks County Prison.

Warren said the warden, Art Wallenstein, was taking them on a tour, when a voice from out of the darkness said, “There’s my teacher.”

“It was a student I had from the 9th grade. Carl says, ‘You didn’t do so hot with that one.’”

During the eight years they served together, from 1980 to 1988, with Warren, a Republican, as majority commissioner the first four years and Fonash as majority commissioner the second four years, the Point Pleasant Pump was the big issue.

“There was no more contentious issue in the history of Bucks County since the Civil War than the pump in my opinion, and Carl was against it and I was for it.

“In the meetings, Carl and I would go hammer and tongs about our views about the pump,” Warren said. “What people didn’t see, after the meetings, and what’s missing so much from today, is we were able to separate the issue from the person.”

Half an hour after the meeting, Warren said, they’d be talking about a college football game. They also got to know each other as husbands and fathers with sons the same age.

“He never let the government become bigger than the people. You don’t see that much these days” Warren said. “There was definitely a personal persona and a government persona, and I think the (government) was better off for it.”

Warren cited Fonash’s financial expertise and his support for building the library at its current location next to the Michener Arts Center in Doylestown, site of the former prison where Fonash had joked about Warren’s former student.

“Carl was very proud of the fact that the new library was located on the site of the old prison. He was chair of the commissioners. He worked very closely with Herman Silverman on the art center and once it was approved, it made very good sense to make it a cultural center,” Warren said. “He was very supportive of that idea and did a great deal of the negotiating.”

After serving as commissioner, Fonash continued his government service as Assistant Secretary of the state Department of Health during the Casey administration.


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