Dr. Richard Harding Fisher Sr. dies at 91
By Kelsey Bartlett
According to those who knew him well, Dr. Richard Harding Fisher Sr. gave like no other to the people of the place he loved. Born on Nov. 17, 1923, he lived his entire lifetime in Salem, and never stopped trying to improve his hometown.
Dr. Fisher passed away on Sunday, Aug. 16. Fisher was the husband of Helen Patricia Smith Fisher, and the father of six, Anne F. Andrews, Richard H. Fisher Jr., Gwynn F. Derrick, Robert W. Fisher, James D. Fisher and Amy F. Miles. Fisher was married to their mother, Anne Katherine Fisher for 52 years before she passed away.
Fisher loved the history of Salem, and dug to uncover the obscure. He was especially interested in the life of Gen. Andrew Lewis, and is largely responsible for the bronze statue of Lewis that sits in front of the Salem Civic Center. He also made certain that a stretch of Interstate 81 be named after the general.
“Dick Fisher was the backbone of a lot of organizations, including the historical society,” Salem Museum Director John Long said. “He started the Educational Foundation, which made a profound difference for a lot of people.”
He received the Salem Historical Society James Simpson Award in 2001.
“His dedication to raise awareness for Gen. Andrew Lewis is why he was honored,” Long said.
Fisher founded the Salem Education and Alumni Association and served as its president for 18 years. The association has awarded more than $2.8 million to Salem High School graduates. He cared deeply for education, and was also the chairman on the City of Salem School Board from 1974-85.
It was while he was on the school board that he first met U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, who was serving as student body president. The two bonded over discussions about the importance of Andrew Lewis.
“There have been a lot of people who contributed to Salem,” Griffith said. “I don’t know that anyone equals him.”
Griffith says Fisher’s greatest gift to the community is his example of a life well lived.
“I think his greatest accomplishment is setting an example of how to give back to the community,” he said.
Fisher was also a founding member of the LewisGale Medical Foundation, and was instrumental in establishing Life-Guard 10, the
hospital-based air ambulance service at LewisGale Hospital.
Fisher had a passion for sports, and used his medical skills to serve as team physician for multiple teams throughout the valley.
It was at a Salem High School football game in 1981 that Chance Crawford’s life changed forever when he suffered a spinal cord injury. Thirty-five years later, Crawford is the clerk of court for the City of Salem, and says he still remembers how Dr. Fisher took care of him that night.
“The very night I got hurt, he was the main one in charge. I still remember him giving direction to probably about eight people,” Crawford said. “He was the game doctor when I played. He was the team physician for the longest time. He was always there. He just took care of people.”
The two remained friends over the years, and Crawford says he is thankful for how Dr. Fisher always considered him a part of the family. Crawford says Fisher loved his kids above all else, but he loved all of the kids of the Roanoke Valley.
“The Educational Foundation, I think, is his crowning achievement,” Crawford said. “He wanted every kid to have an equal opportunity for success in life.”
Crawford says Dr. Fisher loved Salem more than anyone ever has or could, and demonstrated that not only by the money he gave, but also through his actions.
“He was instrumental in the Salem that we now know,” Crawford said. “He was the forefront of all of it.”
“I sure loved the man,” he added.