Below are remarks made during the Chamber's membership luncheon on March 6, 2019. Joe Fischer Jr., a longtime member of the Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce, creator of the Chamber's Business Success Group and a recipient of the Norma Radeackar Lifetime Achievement Award died on Friday, March 1, 2019, after fighting cancer for many months.
There are many people in this room who knew Joe Fischer Jr. much longer and better than myself. But allow me to share my story with you as a tribute to Joe.
Joe welcomed me to the Chamber with a gift of a hand-made letter opener with a wooden handle that he crafted himself in his workshop. Some of you probably received similar gifts. As we chatted one day about his passion for wood working and knives, I mentioned how my youngest son, Ryan, loved working with wood and enjoyed blacksmithing. After that, each month Joe would bring me a stack of his magazines on knife making and wood working for Ryan.
Late last year, he told me he was in for another battle with cancer. Undaunted, he would attend Chamber luncheons. He began organizing the 2019 monthly, Business Success Group, back in August.
We had lunch with a prospective member in November. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving. Afterward, Joe shared with me how dire his prognosis was how much time he may have left. But he was steadfast and unflinching. On that sunny, but chilly, afternoon, Joe could have gone home. He could have felt sorry for himself. He could have spent the next few hours of daylight watching the birds from his back window. Instead, Joe’s car was filled with wreathes. He drove off to the cemetery and spent the rest of the afternoon decorating the graves of his family members.
A few weeks later, he emailed me and asked if my son, Ryan, would be interested in coming over to work with him in his wood shop. I wrote that Ryan wouldn’t be home from Missouri S&T at Rolla until late in December.
After I hit send, I realized I needed to talk to Ryan about Joe, his prognosis and how he would be doing God’s work. Ryan experienced a lot of death of loss for a 19-year-old. When he was 3 or 4, our next door neighbor was a grandfather Ryan never had. Jim was always talking with Ryan over the fence… playing catch, letting him walk his dog and squirt him with the garden hose on hot summer days. When Jim died suddenly, Ryan was crushed.
When Ryan became best buddies with his Scout leader, Bill. They loved archery, telling funny stories, and especially cooking as Bill was a chef. We returned from a family vacation during that summer before Ryan started fifth grade to tragic news. Bill, Ryan’s kindred soul, had taken his own life. There’s no easy or expedient way to help a fifth grader through that intense grief.
And just two years ago, Ryan struggled when my mother died of Alzheimer’s at age 90.
Ryan and I talked about Joe, cancer and time… precious time… We made our first visit to Joe’s house in late December. Joe appreciated Ryan’s love of craftsmanship and eagerness to learn. And Ryan knew Joe needed help to finish many projects… and one special project.
The night before Ryan returned to Rolla for his second semester in mid-January, he joined his mother and I for nightly prayers. Afterward, his mother’s brow furrowed and her eyes darted back and forth. “Aren’t you going to give your father something?… NOW… Aren’t you?”
Ryan paused, walked toward his room, hesitated, and then came back into our room.
“Dad, Joe and I made this for you,” Ryan said. “Joe didn’t want me to give it to you until you taught the March session of his business group.
"He told me how he gave people knives as gifts for helping others. But I’m not sure if I’ll be home before March to give it to you… and Joe was pretty sure he knew he wasn’t going to be able to give it to you in March.”
I attended a funeral on Saturday for a man I never met. Even though I didn’t personally know my friend’s father-in-law, I felt like I knew him after hearing the stories about him.
You might not have known Joe Fischer. But I hope my story helps you know a man who possessed tireless enthusiasm to help others, a passion for helping them succeed in their business or career, and unselfishly recognized others without expecting anything in return.
And for Ryan… there’s no greater blessing than to have a son or daughter who inspires you to become a better person. Sometimes, people just know what to do and they do the right thing… no matter how emotionally challenging that may be.
May all of you be blessed with someone special who helps you grow in service to others.
The Fenton Area Chamber of Commerce supports, promotes & encourages shopping local and keeping business in Fenton. The organization also serves as a link between our members and the community, providing members with tools to succeed in business through networking, marketing, and educational opportunities.