Joel D. Fedder, lawyer and developer

Joel David Fedder
Joel David Fedder (Baltimore Sun)

Joel D. Fedder, a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Fedder and Garten and later a real estate developer, philanthropist and environmentalist, died of cancer April 18 at his home in Longboat Key, Fla. He was 83.

The son of Morris Fedder, a lawyer, and Bess C. Fedder, a homemaker, Joel David Fedder was born in Baltimore and raised in Windsor Hills.


Mr. Fedder was a 1950 graduate of Friends School and earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 from Goddard College and an associate's degree in accounting in 1964 from the Johns Hopkins University.

He earned his law degree in 1958 from the University of Maryland School of Law and began his law career working with his father, who established the law office of Morris Fedder in 1926.


"He excelled at being a lawyer because he had a great depth of knowledge of estate, trust and real estate work," said Herbert S. Garten, Mr. Fedder's law partner and brother-in-law. "After his father died in 1963, we changed the name to Fedder and Garten, P.A."

Mr. Fedder decided to make a career change in 1985, when he gave up the full-time practice of law even though he retained some clients, and moved into real estate development. He founded the Fedder Co. and the Fedder Management Corp., a real estate development and management company.

Fedder Management Corp. managed more than 1,800,000 square feet of commercial real estate in the Mid-Atlantic region, while the Fedder Co. and its affiliates have developed or purchased an estimated $200 million worth of real estate since its inception 30 years ago.

"Joel liked new adventures and challenges, and he went ahead into real estate acquisition. He had made millions for his clients and thought he'd give it a try," said Mr. Garten, who lives in the city's Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood.


The company maintains a diverse portfolio of properties that include warehouses, regional and neighborhood shopping centers, office buildings, storage facilities and apartments.

The Fedder Co.'s shopping centers included Colonial Village Shopping Center in Baltimore, Pikesville Towne Center, Chesapeake Square Shopping Center in Glen Burnie, Overlea Shopping Center and York Village Shopping Center in Cockeysville. They also managed the 140 Village Shopping Center in Westminster.

"He loved teaching and being a mentor," said a nephew, Morris L. "Maury" Garten, a partner in Fedder and Garten, who lives in Stevenson. "He always had good advice. ... And he could not tolerate anyone not being prepared."

Mr. Fedder, a former Owings Mills resident, moved in 1995 to Longboat Key.

Environmental issues were among his major interests throughout his life. In 2007, Mr. Fedder and his wife, the former Ellen Sachs, whom he married in 1956, established The Fedder Environmental Law Fund at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law with a $1 million pledge. They also endowed the Fedder Environmental Law Lecture Series.

"Joel was a great supporter of the environmental law program and a wonderful member of our board when I was dean of the law school," said Phoebe A. Haddon, former dean of the University of Maryland School of Law who since 2014 has been chancellor of the Camden, N.J., campus of Rutgers University.

"He really understood the meaning of leadership and in that capacity, asked other board members to step up. He always wanted the students at the law school to have a wonderful experience at the law school," she said. "He supported their travels locally and across the world in pursuit of their environmental work.

"I have never met a more generous and spirited public leader. It was such a privilege to know him," she said.

At the University of Baltimore School of Law, he and his wife sponsored a symposium on the Chesapeake Bay.

Mr. Fedder lectured widely on the Native American culture of the Athabaskan Indians of Alaska and Canada, the flora and fauna of the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge, climate change, global warming and alternative energy issues.

He collected and raised many types of exotic epiphytic plants, plants that grow on another plant. He also filled his greenhouse with more than a 150 orchids, many extremely rare. He and his wife created a Japanese-Balinese garden at their home, which features many bromeliads, flowering plants native to tropical America.

He served on the board of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Fla., from 1998 to 2003.

Mr. Fedder ran marathons in the 1940s and 1950s, and long before it became fashionable, began jogging regularly in the 1960s. He and his wife stopped eating meat years ago and turned to a health food and organic lifestyle. He became an accomplished organic cook, family members said.

"I marveled when we were together in Aspen of the time he would take checking the labels of foods in the supermarket to make certain it met his health specifications," Mr. Garten said.

He lived a vigorous physical lifestyle and enjoyed hiking, sculling, cross country skiing, kayaking near his Longboat Key home, long-distance walking, biking and golfing

When he was 78, he hiked with the Sierra Club in the Arctic National Park, even sleeping on an ice shelf in the park.

"He was committed to keeping the oil companies out of this magnificent refuge," Amy F. Pollokoff of Stevenson said in her eulogy for her father.

While living in Baltimore, Mr. Fedder served on the boards of the Sheppard Pratt Health Systems Inc., North Arundel Hospital, United Way of Central Maryland, and the Maryland chapter of the American Heart Association, where he was also pro bono counsel.

For more than two decades, he was a member of the Baltimore Estate Planning Council and had served as its president.

In Sarasota, he was a member of the board of the Sarasota/Manatee Jewish Federation Inc. and was on the board of the Sarasota Opera Company.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Sol Levinson and Bros. Inc. in Pikesville.

Mr. Fedder had been a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and in his eulogy. Rabbi Ron Shulman said, "To quote golf legend Ben Hogan: 'As you walk down the fairway of life, you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.' So lived Joel Fedder. May his memory be one of blessing and meaning."

In addition to his wife, daughter, nephew and brother-in-law, Mr. Fedder is survived by a son, Michael Fedder of Bedford, N.H.; a sister, Susan Fedder Garten of Tuscany-Canterbury; and four grandchildren.

An earlier version misstated the ownership of a shopping center. The Fedder Co. and the Fedder Management Corp. only managed the 140 Village Shopping Center in Westminster. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.