August 3, 2004 > In Memoriam
Robert B. Fisher, M.D.
When the Tri-City Voice began publication, we continued our tradition of highlighting local history, initiated in our sister publication, What's Happening Magazine. Historian Philip Homes continued to describe important persons and events that shaped the present Tri-Cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City in his column on the history of the area. One of the first columns to appear in the new newspaper was about Dr. Fisher who recently passed away. Below, we have reprinted this column from February 15, 2002 (Vol. 1 No. 3) and a remembrance from a long-time Irvington resident who knew Dr. Fisher for many years as her physician, a historian and, above all, a friend. We offer the following in tribute to a guardian of our precious history.
Dr. Robert Fisher
By Philip Homes
Dr. Robert Burns Fisher came to Washington Township in 1950 to establish his medical practice in nearby San Jose. Once settled, Fisher joined the campaign to found a local hospital and helped organize the (then) six area physicians into a rudimentary medical staff and emergency service. During his 39 years service in the area, Dr. Fisher and his wife, Cynthia, also adopted and raised a family of eight children, including two Korean orphans who they brought to the U.S. from Korea as the result of a personal mission to the nation.
Over time, local area history became a passion of the good doctor, especially the lives of members of pioneer families. To learn as much as he could, Dr. Fisher joined the Washington Township Historical Society, became a director and eventually coordinated local history exhibits. Among other efforts, Dr. Fisher contributed to the Fremont City Incorporation Campaign and served on the first Recreation Commission; he helped the Mission San Jose Chamber of Commerce develop a program to protect, restore and enhance the Mission church and the adjacent historic area. Among even more accomplishments, the doctor led the committee that inventoried the historic resources of Fremont, served as a chairman of HARB (Historic Area Resources Board.), organized local groups to preserve historic resources and founded the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation. That group's restoration projects included such local landmarks as the Shinn House, Patterson House, Harvey House, Galindo Adobe, the Clark and the Rix homes.
As Dr. Fisher was on the course to become Washington Township's foremost historian, he preserved a wonderful collection of local artifacts, laboring for over 40 years to assemble countless photos, news clippings, books, maps, scrapbooks, letters, documents and other artifacts that covered the development of the township. The result of all these efforts is one of the state's most prized collections of museum-quality, local history which, indexed, runs more than 98 pages.
The doctor hoped that he would be able o donate his impressive collection to the proposed City of Fremont museum, but his health, and financial problems, prevented this. For some time, it appeared that Fremont would lose the collection, appraised at $167,000, to the California State Library.
To the rescue rode Larry Milnes, who put his deft skills and numerous contacts together to work to save the collection. Soon, Jack Brooks, former Fremont developer, contributed $50,000 to the project and Dr. Fisher was able to donate his entire collection to the City of Fremont.
Larry Milnes arranged to have the collection moved to Fremont where it is kept in a special room in the Museum of Local History known as the Fisher Room. The items there are available to qualified researchers by appointment with officers of museum.
We who are involved in following local history hope that, some day, the City of Fremont will build a civic center that includes a professional museum able to house and protect this extraordinary collection.
Separately, the Washington Healthcare Foundation has used many of Dr. Fisher's photographs for its history collection, some of which now adorn the walls of Washington West. The doctor himself helped Carrie Caruthers evaluate these photos and prepare their text.
More photos were used to prepare Washington Township, a Pictorial History for which Dr. Fisher created an introduction which, in turn, was dedicated to him. Later, he was honored by the same foundation. Inquiries for book copies should be directed to the Foundation.
Dr. Fisher has donated his copy of the archival, seven-volume "Illustrated History of Washington Township" to the museum of Local History. These seven volumes represent pictures, with related text, maps and comments, organized by area and town that detail the interesting lives of many important Washington Pioneers and include many wonderful photographs. The volumes are truly remarkable and are certain to be cherished by future local historians.
It is clear that Dr. Robert B. Fisher did many wonderful things for the city and people of Washington Township, but we will appreciate him most for his contributions to history. Larry Milnes summarized it best, "Dr. Robert Fisher deserves a distinguished seat in the hall of pioneers responsible for the founding of Fremont. Were it not for Dr. Fisher, much of the area's historical resources would have been lost long ago."
What a tribute! Very few people have contributed so much to their community. Thank you, Dr. Fisher for your years of service to Fremont and Washington Township.
A Personal Remembrance
By Earlene Walker
I have known Dr. Fisher since 1950 as a family doctor who treated his patients as a whole person. He would fix broken bones, remedy colds or do surgery and also made house calls! One time, he even came to my house to assist with my mother who was living with me at the time; her doctor would only advise me over the phone. Doctor Fisher graciously came to my home as much to help me as to help my mother. That was very special.
Needless to say, I was happy for him when he retired. He was able to pursue his other love, local history. But, I was saddened to lose my doctor. Thanks to him, Fremont's history has been recorded in his beautiful pictorial history collection and many historic buildings have been saved. I think we and the citizens of Fremont have lost a very good man. He was instrumental in the building of Washington Hospital and he was involved with the incorporation of Fremont. He was on City commissions, City Beautification and Recreation Commissions and worked hard to preserve the history of the area. I will miss him.