Laura Lee Fellows
(1957 - 2018)

Laura Lee Fellows

Louisiana, United States of America
March 31, 1957

Florida, United States of America
March 27, 2018

Photography, cooking, opera, art, baseball, birds, Italy
Laura lived an unconventional, active life and touched the hearts of many people. She had a passion for cooking, photography, opera, art, baseball, birds, and nature from a very young age. Laura grew up in Sulphur LA and Houston TX as the daughter of a prominent physician, Dr Charles Fellows. She attended the University of Texas, Austin 1975-1976. She then left her roots behind to explore the country, living for a while in Aspen and Estes Park CO and in Palm Springs CA, where she became personal chef of billionaire Robert Oppenheimer for a time. At age 24 she became the first woman chef at a 5-star restaurant in the US when she was hired as an assistant pastry chef in Dallas Texas.

Laura fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a photographer when she joined with an internationally acclaimed photographer, Allen Matthews, in 1983 and managed their studio in Atlanta GA until 1996. She was the first woman manager of a studio ever in the then man’s world. When she joined Allen, the studio was struggling to obtain new business. She was instrumental in bringing in numerous new large advertising clients including Diet Coke, Eastern Airlines, Delta Airlines, Kimberly Clark, Powerade, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Fairfield Resorts, Hospital Corporation of America, Publix Grocery Stores, Special Olympics, Blue Cross Blue Shield, KFC, and many others. She then organized and participated in many photo shoots in Atlanta and throughout North America as well as in the Bahamas, Argentina, and Colombia for these clients. Her talent as a photographer equaled that of Allen’s but was never recognized because she was always overshadowed by him. She did most of the black-and-white developing and printing for the studio, and according to her peers she was world class in the darkroom. In 1984 she instigated a two-year photographic odyssey to Italy with Allen, settling in Cortona where she became fluent in Italian and was eventually accepted as a daughter of the town. She learned the language by consorting with old men in the piazza, who told her stories from WWII they never told to their own families. She was accepted as an adoptive daughter into an Italian family in Cortona and still has two surviving Italian “brothers” and an Italian “sister” there along with other friends from the town who loved her. In 1996 she co-founded the Cortona Center of Photography along with Allen and as director was instrumental in obtaining corporate sponsorships from Apple, Nikon, Calumet, and others, promoting workshops, handling logistics and finances, and recruiting numerous world class photographers as guest instructors. She was also an instructor herself as well as principal organizer of all the workshop activities. She curated 5 photographic exhibitions featuring acclaimed photographers in the US and Italy. She lectured in the art department at the University of Georgia. When her relationship with Allen failed in 1998, she was forced to abandon most of her personal possessions, including her photographs, but was able to take some of her negatives with her.

In 2000 Laura met the love of her life, her future husband Jim Wittenberger, who held a PhD in zoology with a specialty in bird behavior. In 2005 they married, the happiest day of her life. With him she fulfilled her dream of becoming a bird and wildlife photographer. They formed a birdwatching tour company in 2005, and in that capacity she led many birdwatching tours to Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador including the Galapagos Islands, Brazil, and Kenya. She also had an adventurous journey to Guyana and traveled on a photo safari to Tanzania with her husband. Everywhere she went she made friends with lodge owners, waitresses, maids, cooks, doormen, guides, and drivers. She gained a working knowledge of Spanish so she could communicate with those who couldn’t speak English. Her many photographs are featured on the company website, In 2008 she and her husband were the first North American birding tour company to offer specialty bird photography tours to foreign destinations, quickly emulated by other competing companies in the business.

While with her husband Laura lived in Houston TX, Seattle WA, near Salt Lake City UT, Tucson AZ, Longmont CO, and finally St Johns FL. In 2001 she obtained her real estate license in Seattle for the primary purpose of selling her husband’s home there so she could relocate elsewhere and worked for a year as an apprentice appraiser. Between 2003 and 2016 Laura returned to Cortona several times to see her Italian family, and she organized several memorable trips throughout Italy and Sicily accompanied by her husband and others. In 2014 she realized her childhood fantasy of driving on a racetrack when she and her husband participated in a time trials workshop sponsored by Fiat at the Daytona track. In 2015 she contributed greatly to the design and decorating of their dream home in St Johns FL. In January 2017 she returned to Havana Cuba where she had initially been in her mother’s womb. In November 2017 she realized her dream of going to the opera at the Met in NYC, viewing La Boheme from the orchestra seats and Madame Butterfly from farther back.

Laura passed on March 27, 2018 in the way she wanted, at home and in the arms of her husband, after a prolonged medical condition that caused her discomfort and chronic pain for many years. She is now at peace and pain-free. Laura’s passing relieved her of the severe pain she lived with for many years that stemmed primarily from a dozen diagnosed ailments with her feet, ankles, and calves. She was ready to move on when her passing occurred and was unafraid, but those who loved her were not ready for her departure from this life.

Laura was loved and adored by the many people she touched during her life. She will be sorely missed by everyone whose life was enriched by knowing her, including the many friends she made throughout her life. She is survived by her loving husband, James Wittenberger of St Johns FL, her father Dr Charles Fellows of Lake Charles LA, her mother Betty Kingston Kinney of Bradenton FL, her sisters Alice Petagna of Tierra Verde FL, Carol Fellows of Sulphur LA, and Diane Legg of Houston TX, several cousins, and many nephews and nieces. She was preceded in death by her oldest sister, Beth Fellows, previously of Covington LA. She wants to be forever remembered by those who were close to her as the warm, sensitive, vibrant, energetic, loving, caring, creative, smart, talented, beautiful woman that she was.

If you knew Laura personally, please add your remembrances of Laura to her guest book. She would not want religious remembrances from people she didn't know. Thank you!

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Guest Book (6 entries)
We were shocked and sadden to hear the passing of Laura. We first met this lovely lady in Costa Rica on a photo trip. We hit it of immediately, anyone who knows Laura will know what I mean. We had a wonderful time on the trip and the big plus was we made a good friend. Laura came to visit us in Florida when we had a house there. Again such a good time was had by all, Laura was a great help to Bill with his photography, she was very knowledgeable in all things and was only too happy to share. Also it was no trouble for her to make us a super Lemon Meringue Pie showing off her cooking skills. We then joined Laura on a trip to Panama. Again a first class trip, nothing was too much trouble for her. She did sit a few walks out as she was having trouble with her feet, but never made a big thing of it, she just got on with it and made sure everyone was looked after. We have not seen Laura for some years now, as we live in the Isle of Man, but we had only been talking about hopefully one day doing another journey with our dear friend, but it's not to be.
Laura you will always be in our hearts and thank you for being our friend for that short time.
RIP Laura. Love Bill and JJ ~Isle of Man British Isles
William & JJ Schofield (Friends)
April 20th, 2018
Jim, what a wonderful tribute to your bride. It was an honor to sit with you for a bit this week and hear the amazing story of Laura. You inspired me to remember what's important. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Kim Lego
April 14th, 2018
To know Laura is to Love Laura. She added a beautiful and comical element to my world. I love you and will truly miss you my friend!
Mieko Paige (Friend & Neighbor)
April 10th, 2018
First of all I want to thank Jim for creating this Guest Book, where distant friends like me can write some words for our Laura.
What to say now... I was lucky enough to know a solar person who, even in difficult moments, always had a smile on her lips: the same person had the misfortune of having to leave -so young-this hearthly life, the husband whom she lòved, who loved her, and the beautiful house they had built according to her desires...
Barely know the passing of Laura, I placed on my page FB a message for the people of Cortona who had known her: well, the pic I chose is exactly the one Jim (or her...) wanted for the obituary... a coincidence or a friendship that had to go beyond Death ??... Rest in peace Laura.
Mirella Antonielli (friend from Cortona)
April 5th, 2018
My most vivid memories of Laura are from Christmas 2002 when she came to Wisconsin to meet my brother Jim’s family for the first time, their wedding, and a trip to Venice that we were on together. I appreciated her wit and sense of humor and loved her energy. I so clearly remember her glow and the sparkle in her eyes on their wedding day - I never saw her happier. Rest In Peace Laura.
Kathi Powers (Sister-in-law)
April 4th, 2018
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