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Twenty-seven years in the past, medical doctors instructed a 58-year-old lovely blond she had 6 months to stay. She didn’t like that, so she went to a different physician who stated the very same factor. But, neither physician knew who they have been coping with. She simply saved on dwelling, and in the end, this exceptional girl outlived each of them.

And what a life.

Mrs. Phyllis Fender was married to the legend Leo Fender. She was part of the magical period the place acoustic sounds have been electrified. Certainly, it’s protected to say that Leo Fender has influenced each particular person on earth – a minimum of everybody who has ever heard a track. The issue was that though hundreds of thousands wished to know what made Leo tick, he was so painfully shy. However, Mrs. Fender by no means met a microphone she didn’t like. This was a match made in heaven.

A while in the past, I heard Mrs. Fender converse. I used to be in awe. I occurred to be standing subsequent to her son Paul, who was variety sufficient to introduce us. I stated, “Mrs. Fender, are you aware what you simply did?” She answered, “Yeah, I simply instructed my Leo tales.” I replied, “No, you shared historical past. This must be documented, and also you and I are going to jot down a ebook.” She appeared a bit shocked, however positive sufficient, the subsequent Monday we met at Polly’s Pies to kick it off. We have been only a stone’s throw from the place Leo and Freddie Travaris invented the Fender Stratocaster. My dad, Pete Bell, additionally labored there, and I used to be taught necessary values. Love God, be good to your loved ones, do your chores, and play a Fender.

Mrs. Fender and I started our weekly ritual, the place the hostess at Polly’s reserved our favourite sales space within the very again nook. Mrs. Fender would sometimes order a wedge salad with blue cheese and iced tea. I acquired my commonplace turkey sandwich and tropical iced tea. I might activate the recorder, and we might begin speaking. Proper off the bat, she set me straight that there was no regulation that claims you possibly can solely play a Fender. You must also play a G&L. She loves them each, and I acquired my act collectively.

I’m pleased with my childhood dwelling of Fullerton – which my high-school buddy Kirk San Roman aptly refers to as, “The middle of the world.” Mrs. Fender liked all issues Fullerton, particularly volunteering with Kelly Chidester on the Fullerton Museum, and he or she positive by no means acquired bored with Polly’s Pies.

At occasions we’d chortle and chortle about all of the wacky issues that Leo did whereas making a billion-dollar empire. Different occasions we simply talked about life and the way powerful it may be. Her tales hypnotized me, however I rapidly realized Mrs. Fender had a coronary heart of pure gold. So, loving, real, and genuine, I as soon as instructed her, “Neglect Leo! I identical to hanging out with you!”

Generally we have been joined by Fender historian Richard Smith, or by Lon Gibby, who was featured in a 1960s advert the place he performed a Stratocaster whereas using a skateboard. Different occasions, former Fender or G&L workers would come, or my 98-year outdated mother would be a part of us. Typically, different restaurant patrons would acknowledge her, and he or she would invite them to go to. Her chortle was pure gold. With Mrs. Fender, life was simply pure bliss. Our ritual continued for months on finish and it grew to become the spotlight of my week. It was a thrill to be together with her because the tales saved coming, together with the miracles. The proper individuals got here together with key elements of Leo’s story. Outdated paperwork would present up. Keith Richards endorsed the ebook. Sooner or later I instructed her, “I can’t imagine it, however I someway acquired [the domain] She simply smiled and stated, “It’s all a God factor.”

Lastly, our ebook, “Leo Fender” was a actuality.

Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell on the Fullerton Museum Middle. Photograph by Mike Ritto.

Ending a ebook is just like the kickoff of a soccer recreation and the remainder is promotion. Collectively we did many radio, newspaper, and tv interviews. It doesn’t matter what, Mrs. Fender immediately related with the viewers. We had a system. I answered the technical guitar questions, and he or she took on all of the Leo questions. Most significantly, we agreed to chortle at one another’s jokes.

She had a superb present connecting with individuals. I as soon as went to an occasion the place Mrs. Fender walked into the room, which was actually filled with rock and nation stars. The entire crowd got here to a hush, after which an outburst of awe at her easy arrival. She, alternatively, had her eye on the roast beef sandwiches. At that second, I discovered society’s true hierarchy. Followers chase the rock stars, the rock stars chase Mrs. Fender, and Mrs. Fender chases the roast beef sandwiches. Truthfully, she has extra power than any of them, and we have been the final to depart. I’ve but to satisfy a rock star that may out-party Mrs. Fender.

To Mrs. Fender, it didn’t matter in case you have been a rock star or scrubbed bathrooms – she was simply completely satisfied to see you. The one star that basically acquired her consideration was Willie Nelson. After I discovered this, I referred to as his supervisor and talked about that Mrs. Fender want to meet him. Immediately, I used to be despatched backstage passes to his present.

Mrs. Fender was so excited, and I used to be completely satisfied to be her chauffeur. We went backstage, and positive sufficient, Willie got here using up in a golf cart. He hopped out and got here proper as much as me, and stared at me within the face. I stated, “Mr. Nelson, I wrote a ebook with Mrs. Fender. It tells a narrative in regards to the one argument that Leo and Mrs. Fender had – and it was about you!” Willie stared at me and stated, “Good. I like inflicting hassle.” He then turned and gave hug after hug to Mrs. Fender. If Willie didn’t have a present, I feel I could have pushed dwelling alone. They simply saved chatting and chatting whereas an viewers of 18,000 waited. He invited us to take a seat together with his household on the aspect of the stage, and he walked out to thunderous applause.

I used to be honored to take Mrs. Fender to her first rock live performance. She checked out me as if to say, “What’s all this ridiculous noise?” I stated, “Hey, they’re all taking part in Fender devices so you bought to cope with it.” It was Kenny Loggins who acquired Mrs. Fender on her ft to bop for the primary time – particularly with Scott Bernard’s lead solos.

Give it some thought. You’ll not discover a extra eclectic or various group of individuals than on the earth of music. Mrs. Fender was royalty. She was the queen. What number of 85-year-old girls are able to making prompt associates with 17-year-old punk rockers? But for Mrs. Fender, that was a straightforward day on the workplace. It didn’t matter in case you have been into acid rock and had a tarantula tattooed in your face, Mrs. Fender liked you.

There was by no means a doubt that Mrs. Fender liked her household. She by no means talked about her daughter Chris with out utilizing the phrase “good.” She described her son Jon as, “That rascal that retains me laughing.” As soon as, her son Paul was strolling throughout her driveway whereas Mrs. Fender and I have been pulling out within the automobile. Mrs. Fender instructed me to cease. She simply wished to observe him as she instructed me how proud she was of him and his shiny, variety, and industrious nature. She adored her two sisters, Laurie and Trish. Her face glowed as she talked about her household.

The key of Mrs. Fender was that she liked individuals, and he or she positive liked Jesus. For those who have been agnostic or atheist, that was okay. Mrs. Fender figured that Jesus loves you, too. As soon as Mrs. Fender and I have been having lunch at Polly’s Pies. Out of nowhere, she stated, “Ya know Randy, I really like Jesus a lot, I’m virtually excited to go to heaven!”

On July 22, 2020 the world misplaced an icon in Phyllis Fender, who died at 85. For me, and for numerous others who’ve a deep love for Mrs. Fender, it’s unimaginable to just accept that today has come. I miss her a lot. However I’m positive that Leo is up there tuning the electrical harps, and Mrs. Fender is busy making an ideal heaven just a bit extra good.

Ultimately, Phyllis Fender taught us all a lesson. It’s so easy. The lesson is all the time love.

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