Fond farewell

Part­ner of Fer­gie’s Pub passes away.

An Ir­ish­man and a Palestini­an open a bar in Phil­adelphia…

No, this is not the start of a joke. 

It’s the be­gin­ning of a beau­ti­ful friend­ship, one that grew over the next two dec­ades and would come to define the spir­it of one of the city’s most suc­cess­ful bars. 

Wajih Abed, the hand­some, forever-smil­ing gen­tle­man from Ramal­lah on the West Bank of Is­rael, and his busi­ness part­ner, Fer­gus Carey, the rogue from Dub­lin. Wajih and Fer­gie - every­one knows them by their first names.

The flowers and con­dol­ences began ar­riv­ing at Fer­gie’s Pub on Sansom Street in Cen­ter City al­most im­me­di­ately after a sign went up on the front door on Feb. 4, an­noun­cing that Wajih had suc­cumbed to can­cer of the larynx at the age of 71.

“He’s leav­ing a huge hole,” said Fer­gie. “He’s leav­ing a lot of friends.”

In the stack of snap­shots that Fer­gie showed me in the pub’s second-floor of­fice, there are scores of fam­ily mem­bers and bar­room ac­quaint­ances hug­ging Wajih, a broad smile be­neath his trimmed mus­tache. 

“He was the ul­ti­mate host,” Fer­gie said. “He brought old-school class to this place.”

Wajih had come to Amer­ica as a teen­ager, already mar­ried with a wife and child he’d left be­hind un­til he got settled. He star­ted selling car­pets on the street in the early ‘60s.

“I re­mem­ber when he came to Book­bind­er’s look­ing for a job, any job,” said Con­stance Book­bind­er, the own­er’s wife. “My hus­band, Sam, offered him a job as a bar boy. Even­tu­ally he let him make drinks.”

He was only 18.

There were oth­er jobs. He bought a couple of pizzeri­as in Jer­sey. His wife joined him, they had more kids (“He sent all of them to col­lege on a bar­tender’s salary,” Book­bind­er said.), and then she passed away.

Fer­gie — already a well-known bar­tender at McGlinchey’s, just down the street from Book­bind­er’s — first met Wajih in 1994, and the two de­cided to go in­to busi­ness to­geth­er, rent­ing a space on Sansom.

“I sug­ges­ted the name, and then we put an Amer­ic­an flag and an Ir­ish flag out front,” said Fer­gie. “He joked that we should put up a Palestini­an flag, too, but we nev­er got around to that…”

“We opened on a shoes­tring, but the place was an im­me­di­ate suc­cess,” Fer­gie con­tin­ued. “He was 49 and I was 31. He was such the fath­er fig­ure to every­body.”

The years passed, the Guin­ness and Jameson poured freely, the bar’s rep as one of the city’s best Ir­ish pubs soared. Wajih’s in­flu­ence could be seen in small oddit­ies around the bar: the Itali­an wed­ding soup on the menu of an Ir­ish bar, Celine Di­on on the juke­box.

But more im­port­antly there was his smile from be­hind the bar, greet­ing first-timers and reg’lars alike.

It was the smile of a man who came to Amer­ica, earned an hon­est liv­ing, raised a fam­ily and built an en­dur­ing, beau­ti­ful friend­ship.

“He loved,” said Fer­gie, “and he was loved.”

Twit­ter: @Beer­_RADAR

Six­pack of the Week

Golden Hop IPA

Yards Brew­ing (Phil­adelphia)
In­dia pale ale

AL­CO­HOL: 6% 

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