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Wajih Abed, co-owner of Fergie's Pub, dies of cancer

"He loved life," his business partner Fergus Carey said.

Fergie's Pub cofounder Wajih Abed, 71 -- the fatherly yin to the irascible yang that is business partner Fergus Carey -- died Saturday, Feb. 4, of complications from throat cancer.

"He loved life," Carey said. "He had surgery in August and don't think he had a moment of joy since then. He had surgery again last week because he couldn't eat, drink, or swallow." The surgery was to remove the rest of his larynx, in anticipation of receiving an artificial voice box, Carey said. His death was unexpected, Carey said.

Mr. Abed, who lived in West Deptford, was born in Ramallah, then British-controlled Palestine and now the West Bank. He emigrated as a teenager and found work at the landmark Bookbinders Seafood House, now the site of an Applebee's on 15th Street near Locust -- no small accomplishment for an Arab youth in a Jewish-owned restaurant.

At 18, he was allowed to bartend, and he picked up the nickname "the Assassin."

It had nothing to do with Middle Eastern politics, Carey explained. "It was because he poured stiff drinks."

After a layoff from Bookbinders, Mr. Abed opened pizzerias in New Jersey. After his wife died, Mr. Abed began looking to open a bar in Philadelphia. A mutual friend introduced Mr. Abed and Carey, a bartender at McGlinchey's.

They lightly fixed up the longtime German restaurant Hoffman House at 1214 Sansom St., which had sunk into a dive bar, and added craft beer, then a rare commodity.

"We just went gung ho," Carey said. He said the changeover took 24 days.

Their opening on Nov. 28, 1994, brought lines and crowds.

Carey said a viewing will be 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at McGuinness Funeral Home, 34 Hunter St., Woodbury, N.J. Service will be at noon Wednesday, Feb. 8 at the Muslim American Community Association, 3 Lafayette Ave., Voorhees. Burial will follow at Arlington Park Cemetery in Pennsauken.

Fergie's Pub will be closed Wednesday, Feb. 8 -- "though Wajih would probably disagree with that decision," Carey said.

He is survived by sons Steven and Abed, as well as a brother and sister.  His eldest son, Maher ("Mark"), died in 2012.