M. Anthony Fisher and his wife, Anne Williamee Fisher, of Chilmark and New York city, died last Friday when their chartered plane crashed in Leominster in poor weather. He was 52 and she was 41.
The Fishers were well-known philanthropists both in Manhattan and on the Vineyard, where they made their home at Blue Heron Farm overlooking a finger of the Tisbury Great Pond. They were in the final stages of a renovation project on the farmhouse and the Vineyard was their final destination last week, after they had first planned to visit Cushing Academy in Ashburnham with their daughter, Tora, a prospective student. Tora Fisher was the only person to survive the plane crash, which also killed four other people.
Mr. Fisher, who was known as Tony, was a senior partner at Fisher Brothers, a prominent real estate firm in New York city. He was co-founder and general partner of FdG Associates, a $200 million buyout firm. He was an alumnus and longtime member of the board of trustees at Cushing Academy, and was also a trustee at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York city. He was a graduate of Bentley College in Wellesley. He was a member of the board for the Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides homes for families of injured military personnel to stay while their loved ones are recovering. He was chairman and chief executive officer of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, which operates the docked aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. The museum was closed on Monday and Tuesday in memory of the Fishers.
On Monday this week Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, interrupted their regular daily briefings to pay tribute to the Fishers.
"The Fisher family has done, and continues to do, so much for the men and women in uniform. Many of the families of the servicemen that we visited yesterday have their families staying in Fisher Houses. They are at Bethesda; they are also at Walter Reed, and there are other locations around the country and the world. And they are funded by the Fisher Foundation. Their assistance to the military families is deeply appreciated, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of the Fisher family," Secretary Rumsfeld said.
"Like the secretary, I also want to extend my sympathies and our sympathies to the Fisher family. . . . They were great supporters of our service members. The Fisher Houses at military hospitals are a great resource for families visiting their injured or seriously ill loved ones. And we will miss Tony and Anne very much," General Myers said.
A spokesman for the Fisher House Foundation said this week that the family of rescued prisoner of war PFC Jessica Lynch is staying at a Fisher House in Germany.
Before her marriage, Mrs. Fisher worked in the fashion and magazine realm. She worked as cultural editor of Paris Passion magazine in Paris, France, as market editor of Allure magazine in New York and was the fashion director of Galleries Lafayette in New York. She served on the board of directors of the International Center of Photography and was a member of the photography committee of the Whitney Museum, both in New York city.
She was a graduate of East Catholic High School in Manchester, Conn., the Universite of Rouen in Rouen, France, and the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
Mr. Fisher first came to the Vineyard by accident in 1980 when two passengers on a sailing trip out of Nantucket became ill and the boat put in at the Vineyard. He was immediately enchanted with the Island and began coming back, first in a boat and then later to rent and eventually to buy property.
His first home was in Menemsha, which he later sold before buying Blue Heron Farm.
Tony and Anne Fisher loved the Vineyard and gave back in countless ways to a wide range of charitable organizations, including the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, Martha's Vineyard Community Services, the Agricultural Society, the Martha's Vineyard Arena and the Vineyard affordable housing project.
"I come here to forget New York," Mrs. Fisher said in a 1993 interview with the Martha's Vineyard Magazine. "It's heaven on earth here. But it's more than the house and it's more than the barn - it's really the land. It's a very special piece of property," she said.
They were avid equestrians and raised horses at Blue Heron Farm.
In the late 1990s Mr. Fisher played a leading role in saving the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, which was in the grips of a financial crisis that nearly caused its collapse. Mr. Fisher joined an emergency board of trustees that turned around the crisis and saved the hospital.
"Tony Fisher was unique. We could not have turned around the hospital without him," said William Graham, a resident of West Tisbury and Los Angeles who co-chaired the emergency board. "He had a quick financial mind and an enormous, caring heart. He was intensely loyal and endlessly generous. He had no use for prevarication or prevaricators. If he could help, he would, and he did - again and again. He never cared about getting credit. He was wonderfully fun. We are all the beneficiaries of his love for people and for Martha's Vineyard. I will miss him a lot," Mr. Graham said.
"The survival of our hospital as an independent institution rests, in large measure, to the efforts and contributions of Tony Fisher," wrote Vineyard attorney Ronald H. Rappaport in a tribute to Mr. Fisher that is published on the editorial page in today's Gazette.
In 1985 Mr. Fisher was one member of a group of people who collectively won a Tony award for producing the Broadway play Big River, an adaptation of Huckleberry Finn. In an interview with the Gazette that year, Mr. Fisher talked about his life in New York and on the Vineyard.
"In New York I work with my head. On the Vineyard I work with my hands. Here, I only go 25 or 30 miles per hour all day long," he said.
The Fishers were members of the Farm Neck Golf Club, the Martha's Vineyard Golf Club, the Martha's Vineyard Horse Council and the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society.
They are survived by five children, all of Manhattan: two daughters, Tora and Miasha, and three sons, William, Noah and Cole.
Mr. Fisher is also survived by his mother, Emily Landau Fisher of Manhattan; two brothers, Richard of Manhattan and Lester of Purchase, N.Y.; and two sisters, Candia Fisher of Greenwich, Conn., and Irma Fisher Mann of Boston.
Mrs. Fisher is also survived by her parents, Robert and Lois Williamee of Manchester, Conn., and her sister and brother in law, Susan and David Boggini.
A funeral service was held on Tuesday aboard the USS Intrepid in New York city. Interment was private on the Vineyard.
Memorial donations may be made to the East Catholic High School Development Fund, 115 New State Road, Manchester, Conn. 06040, and the Intrepid Museum Foundation, One Intrepid Square, West 48th street and 12th avenue, New York, N.Y. 10036.