Toolin’ Around Town: Marcel Feibusch’s lifetime of civic involvement
Affable, outgoing and encouraging, Marcel Feibusch is known for his civic involvement, his coaching of girls’ softball and boys’ soccer teams and his competitive racquetball skills. He’s also an emergency preparedness advisor who gained insight into natural disasters following the Loma Prieta earthquake. So, it came as no surprise when Feibusch said, “I’m the type of guy who cannot sit around the house. That’s where my activism comes in.”
We’d been discussing his childhood, career and employers as I arranged a list of his volunteering, community interests and public service.
“If you’re not satisfied with how things are, stop complaining and get involved,” said Feibusch, who served for 10 years on the Petaluma Planning Commission and, appointed by Supervisor Mike Kerns, six years on the Sonoma County Planning Commission.
A retired construction supervisor and emergency response trainer with Pacific Gas & Electric, he volunteers as a community service officer with the Petaluma Police Department and trains criminal justice majors in radio procedure.
“I need lots of social contact,” he said. “I go to the gym four times a week, have coffee and lunch with old friends and retired police officers and I meet with a men’s discussion group.”
Born and raised San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District, Feibusch, 80, studied graphic arts and boxing at City College and worked in the printing trade before hiring on with PG&E. He moved to Petaluma in 1970 with his first wife and daughters Lisa and Denise. He was a master reserve officer with the police department from 1973-78 and was offered a full-time police job, but following a divorce, chose PG&E as a career.
“I thought Petaluma would be a nice place live and to raise a family,” he said. “My parents almost came up here in 1950, but my father was denied a $6,000 home loan.”
When Feibusch remarried in 1979, his wife, Phyllis, a “Brooklyn girl,” brought four boys into their combined family, which included Feibusch’s daughters. They shared 35 years together before Phyllis died in 2014.
The evening of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Oct. 17, 1989, Feibusch was leading a PG&E emergency response team across the Golden Gate Bridge when he spotted the massive fire in the Marina District.
“I was wondering, ‘What am I doing on this bridge? What am I getting into?’?” he recalled. “I didn’t realize the devastation that had occurred until the next morning.”
Feibusch remained in San Francisco, repairing ruptured gas lines, for more than a month.
He observed another catastrophic event while visiting New York City with his wife in September, 2001. They were scheduled to fly home on Sept. 10 but decided to stay for another day. On Sept. 11, with debris from the World Trade Center falling on them and the airports shut down, they kept their rental car and drove home.
That incident was the third time the Feibusch family encountered disaster. On May 6, 1937, Marcel’s uncle, Martiz Feibusch, who’d sponsored Marcel’s parents coming to the United States from Nazi Germany the previous year, died in the Hindenburg tragedy.
Athletics has played a prominent role in his life, beginning with football and the shot put in high school. He played Petaluma city league softball for 16 years, coached softball and soccer for nine seasons each and, with Don Bennett and Ross Parkerson competed three times in the Bay-to-Breakers run.
For many years, he excelled in competition racquetball, winning local tournaments and championships and earning an invitation to the U.S. Masters Invitational in Las Vegas.
“My travel and expenses would amount to $1,100 and I’d come home with a T-shirt,” he said with a laugh.
After retiring from PG&E in 1993, Feibusch was called back to teach emergency response training to police, fire personnel and first responders. That lasted for eight years and led to a job with Energy Experts International, a consulting firm, for 10 more years.
“My dream was to be a police officer,” said Feibusch. “Volunteering as a community resource officer helps the police to do their job, while at the same time I’m enjoying myself. It’s all about giving back to the community. I’m very fortunate to have lived the life I have.”
(Harlan Osborne’s ‘Toolin’ Around Town’ runs every other week in the Argus-Courier. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)