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Alumni Snapshot: Q&A with John Fisher ’53

Alumni Director Carrie MacVean Grimes '91 enjoyed lunch at the home of John Fisher ’53 on a recent Alumni trip to California. John and his lovely wife Cathy hosted Carrie at their home in Palo Alto.
After forty years in the McLean, Virginia area where the Fishers raised their daughters, they moved to Palo Alto, CA in 2011. They live in a three-home compound with two of their daughters and their families with another daughter a mile away. “Our youngest daughter, Lynn, her husband, Tom, and we bought a piece of property in Palo Alto with two houses on it which, interestingly, is next door to yet another daughter and her husband. So we have a compound—the ‘Fish Bowl’—that has turned out to be terrific. Cathy and I have our independence but have family close by if and when needed.” A fourth California daughter lives in Newport Beach. The Fisher’s fifth daughter lives in Philadelphia. “We are blessed with ten grandchildren, five girls and five boys, and have seen three of them get married,” reports John.
 
Retirement has been good to the Fishers. “Cathy and I play duplicate bridge twice a week, take care of several gardens (our own, our churches, and the one for a kindergarten class at the local grade school where our two youngest grandchildren go), and spend a lot of time doing family things. We also have fallen in love with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and spend a week there in the middle of July. We also go east several times a year to visit our farm in Delaware and a family resort in West Virginia.” The family farm, just outside of Lewes, was passed down through generations on John’s side of the family, and is lovingly portrayed in a photograph in the Fisher’s foyer. Surrounded by fields of daffodils, the farmhouse is home to many wonderful Fisher family memories.
 
John and Cathy also dabble in bluegrass music, with John playing banjo and Cathy having recently started to learn to play the dobro, a type of acoustic guitar with steel resonating disks inside the body under the bridge. The Fisher clan is a musical bunch, and Wednesday evenings are spent enjoying dinner together in their shared family courtyard, playing bluegrass music.
 
John’s memories of Severn School reflect a deep fondness, and he believes Severn had a very positive and lasting impact on his life’s journey. His time here as a boarder offered stability following a series of relocations due to his father’s military career. John’s face lit up when talking about his Severn lacrosse career, and the great fun he and his classmates had piling into big Packards to head to games at Gilman and other area competing schools. When asked about favorite teachers, John immediately recalled faculty member Tom Peters, who taught history and English. Amazingly, Tom Peters’ personal copy of the 1952 Navigator yearbook resides in the archives of Severn Alumni House, and bears written messages from many of his students, including a young John Fisher. John wrote, “Mr. Peters, I wish to express my deepest and most sincere thanks for all the help you have given me during the year. On the Anchor, Navigator, and in other situations…I hope you will carry with you friendly memories of a very grateful and admiring student.”
 
After Severn, John attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on a Navy ROTC scholarship, served in the Navy after graduating, and worked as a management consultant on the east coast for over two decades. John’s next fifteen year chapter in his career was as a mathematics teacher at the Landon School in Bethesda, where he also coached JV lacrosse. Interestingly, John’s teaching career at Landon overlapped for a time with Severn’s Headmaster, a young Doug Lagarde! Carrie treasured her visit with the Fishers, and greatly appreciated their hospitality on her trip out west.
 

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