Carla and Richard Fels
Carla and Richard Fels met as undergraduates at Franklin & Marshall College in an economics class. And while they thrived in the analytics and science of production, distribution, supply and demand, it’s clear that their passion for all facets of life have informed their family’s path and traditions.
The Fels family relocated to Ridgewood from NYC in 1988, raising three daughters here. “Our real estate agent mentioned the library many times during our house search, and it was one of the first places we went after arriving in town,” Carla recalls. Drawn by Ridgewood’s architecturial beauty and gracious homes, they still found appeal in the pre-renovation Library, when the Children's department was housed in the basement. Our girls “loved it even then.” Leave it to economics majors to recognize value in less-than-perfect surroundings.
Carla’s road from Franklin & Marshall led to Fordham Law and the trademark and copyright department of Loeb & Loeb. Though not many attorneys would look back at their bar-studying days with nostalgia, Carla recounts that time with a smile. “I studied for the bar exam in the stacks when there used to be study carrels upstairs. It was a great library even before the renovation.” Richard parlayed his degree into a career in the financial industry and commutes into NYC every day.
In upbringings in St. Louis, for Carla, and Philadelphia, for Richard, both Felses enjoyed the benefits of close family. Richard’s retired parents still live in Center City Philadelphia, his father once a business-owner-turned-high-school-teacher and his mother a government worker at HUD. Carla grew up surrounded by numerous nieces and nephews close in age.
The St. Louis Library was Carla’s public library as a child. And she shares a wonderful memory of how life can come full circle. When Madeleine L’Engle died a few years ago, Carla felt a strong desire to re-read one of her favorite childhood books, L’Engle’s Meet the Austins. Purchasing the less-well-known title online, she eagerly received the package, and what did she see stamped on the book? Discarded from the Saint Louis County Library. “It gave me chills holding the book in my hands," she says, "thinking that it was likely the same copy I had read as a child."
The past may hold an important place in the Fels family, but they remain forward-looking and open-minded as they create their own history and legacy. Richard’s favorite literary genre is non-fiction primarily focused on business philosophies, as he's committed to learning anything new to help him further his career. Carla, who has served on the Board of Directors of the Ridgewood Public Library Foundation since 2009, cites Jane Austen as a favorite author, but she also adores Ian McEwan. Those 3 daughters who once loved the basement Children's department? They are grown, not far from home, and still hold their Ridgewood Library cards. The Fels family enjoys a lovely tradition of an annual summer vacation up in Maine. “We’ve been going for 15-16 years now,” Carla explains. “It’s an active vacation, kayaking, canoeing, and we dress every night for dinner.” That leaves precious luggage space for their beloved books, so what do Carla, Richard and the girls do? All 5 take advantage of the Library’s eBook collection and Zinio magazines. “It feels like cheating to be able to take so many books with me,” Carla says.
“I know Nancy [Greene] is creating a 21st-century Library, and we’re so lucky to have this resource in Ridgewood," she concludes for the family. "It is such a gem.”