Obituary of John T. Fisher, M.D.
John T. Fisher, M.D., 88, of State College, died Monday, October 7, 2019, at Foxdale Village Retirement Community.
Born September 8, 1931, in Houtzdale, PA at the home of his Swedish immigrant grandparents, to the late Russell Theodore and Louise Marie Malm Fisher. He was the first son of a young coal miner who did not have the luxury of completing high school. On December 29, 1957, he married Barbara deMille Asbury Fisher, his wife of 62 years who survives.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Fisher is also survived by three children, Laurie deMille Fisher Hundertmark and her husband Brian, of Poolesville, MD; John B. Fisher and his wife Kathryn, of State College; and Kenneth Lee Fisher and his wife Elizabeth, of Leesburg, VA; one brother, Dan Fisher and his wife Faith, children Karen and Paul of Greensboro, NC; one brother-in-law Robert Spencer and his wife Marilyn (Asbury) Spencer and their children Keane and Keith; and eight grandchildren, Anne and Gretchen Hundertmark; Reese, Nolan, and David Fisher; and Garrett, Logan, and Liron Mendelsohn.
Dr. Fisher graduated from Houtzdale Woodward Brisbin High School (1949), Pennsylvania State College with a Pre-Medical degree (1953) where he was the President of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national premedical honor society. He completed his medical degree at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania (1957) where he was President of Phi Rho Sigma, the national medical fraternity. He interned at Hartford Hospital (1957-1959). As a Captain in the United States Air Force he trained as a Flight Surgeon at the Aerospace Medical Center School of Aviation Medicine (1959-1961), Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. He spent a year at Gailey Eye clinic, Bloomington, Illinois (1962) followed by a residency at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center (1962-1965).
John was raised in an era where work was scarce and you learned to appreciate what resources you and your neighbors had. Growing up in his grandparents' home until his late teens, he was just going to college about the time his father was getting out of coal and into plumbing/furnace work. Both John and his brother Dan learned to use their hands early and became proficient at carpentry and building skills. Eventually John's father would build his own home near his in-laws in Houtzdale. John could walk over the hill to his grandmother's in Brisbin, go two blocks to his lifelong friend Elmo DiBiagio's home, sled-ride down to Hannah Street in town, catch a coal car with his buddies to Tyrone, or go shooting in the strippings.
His parents were involved early on in church and in Scouting, both of which would help shape John's life. His parents impressed upon their boys the value of education and lifelong learning. Scouting and Ham Radio became two more things that he and Elmo DiBiagio shared. He would connect with Elmo and his wife Jorunn in Norway and communicate via Ham radio, then computer for the rest of his life. He earned the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow and Eagle Scout ranks with Elmo, and worked as a staff member at Mountain Run Camp, where he met John Kriner who would be another lifelong friend in State College. Church and scouting would continue to be a big part of his life and he would give back to both in later years. He worked his way through Penn State washing dishes. During summers he was led to pursue medical studies while helping a family physician on his rounds often by horse and buggy in Houtzdale (the same physician who had delivered him). During medical school he met his wife-to-be, Barbara Asbury.
John and Barbara arrived in State College in 1965 in their used VW Beetle with two small children and a newborn. He was then the only Board-Certified Ophthalmologist in Central PA in 1965 and practiced for 44 years. He and Barbara bought the Theta Zi fraternity house on Locust Lane in the early 1970s which would be his office for the remainder of his professional career. As his career progressed his reputation grew and the office expanded with many exceptional people joining the staff. Penn State football players were screened for soft contact lenses to help receivers see the ball, pediatric and retinal specialties were added, and the practice continued to grow. It was not uncommon for people in State College to go to Wills Eye in Philadelphia or Johns Hopkins and be told that the best surgeon was back in State College. As Dr. Fisher slowed down with surgery he continued to be involved with office visits and saw patients into his 70s.
He was a very driven person, if he could not do something himself then he would research out who could do the best job. He respected hard work, dependability, honesty, and people who were exceptional in their occupations. In addition to many medical colleagues, ham radio enthusiasts, and educators, he was most comfortable with people who were farmers, welders, plumbers, electricians, and mechanics.
John and Barbara helped teach their children the value of an education, the importance of church, the principles of scouting, the importance of service to your fellow man, and the need to do more than just show up every day. He helped teach his children a work ethic at home cutting wood and working on projects. We had paper routes, worked in construction, as life guards, and in food service. As was typical in those days we cut and heated with wood, canned and dried food, processed meat, made jam, tended gardens, and on special occasions had home-made ice cream. He never sat idle. If he was sitting he was reading, the television was rarely on in our home. He valued education, church, self-sufficiency, and following through on your commitments. His hobbies were extensive as his mind and hands needed to be always busy. He did winemaking, fine woodworking, gardening, reloading, hunting, fishing, sailing, backpacking, canoeing, skiing, tennis, horseback riding and photography. Following in his father's tradition he built his own cabin with a little help.
Our father would always say do a job the best that you can and try to figure out how you can do better next time. He was a man of few words, he led by example. We will miss him.
Dr. Fisher attended Grace Lutheran Church of State College. He was a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology; served as the Medical Staff Secretary at Centre Community Hospital (1968-1988); Nittany Amateur Radio Club (KA3DBU), Osceola Lodge No. 515 Free and Accepted Masons (66 years), Executive Board at Juniata Valley Council, Boy Scouts of America. John and Barbara were very involved in the community with land, farm and water resource preservation.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, November 9, 2019 from 12-2 pm at Grace Lutheran Church (Fireside Room), followed by a celebration of John's life at 2:00 p.m. (205 South Garner Street, State College). Pastor Scott E. Schul will be officiating.
A private burial was held on Saturday, October 12. He was laid to rest with military honors overlooking his great-grandmother's home in Brisbin just over the hill from his home in Houtzdale.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to The Dr. John Fisher Fund, to support the John M. Kriner II Lodge at Seven Mountains Scout Camp. Juniata Valley Council, BSA, 9 Taylor Drive, Reedsville, PA 17084 or the Grace Lutheran Church Building Fund, 205 South Garner Street, State College, PA 16801. Please also consider donating blood in his memory at the State College American Red Cross Blood Donation Center, 165 S. Pugh Street, State College or your local blood donation center.
Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com and visit us on Facebook.
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