Capital Gazette editor Gerald Fischman remembered at funeral for dry wit, love of family

Readers of The Capital newspaper came to know Gerald Fischman’s writing through his incisive editorials about local government corruption, school system scandals and other Annapolis goings-on.

But to his wife, Fischman’s most wonderful pieces of writing came in the form of poems. He would present them to her without fail on birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.

“I love you each day, honey, from the moment that I wake,” he wrote on Valentine’s Day in 2017. “And I’m going to keep on loving you until the last breath I take.”

At his funeral Sunday afternoon, Erica Fischman recited a selection of her husband’s poetry before a packed chapel at the Judean Memorial Gardens in Olney. Her birthday was last week, but she’ll never again receive a poem from her husband of 11 years.

“I never would have thought that he would leave us so suddenly and so soon,” she told the standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 mourners. “I can’t believe our happy life would be so short.”

Fischman was one of five staff members killed in the June 28 attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis. Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against the paper, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Also killed were Rob Hiaasen, 59, an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent; John McNamara, 56, a sports reporter; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant.

Fischman, 61, was the longtime editorial page editor. For more than two decades, his words served as a moral compass for the Annapolis newspaper and the communities it covers.

Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell said Fischman was “someone whose life was committed to protecting our community by telling hard truths.” He eulogized his fallen co-worker by reading passages from editorials he wrote through the years.

Family and friends recalled Fischman’s dry wit, love of family and brilliant mind. He was always curious, they said, starting at a young age.

A quiet and intellectual boy, he carried an adult briefcase with him to elementary school, said Rabbi Larry Shor, who grew up a few doors away from Fischman and led his funeral service Sunday. When bullies tried to take the bag, Fischman stood his ground.

A cousin said her earliest memory of him revolves around seeing an 8-year-old Fischman leafing through the encyclopedia.

That perpetual thirst for knowledge carried him through his career as a newspaperman. A former Capital editor, Mary Felter, said that if a volume of the newsroom’s encyclopedia went missing, “you knew you’d probably find it on Gerald’s desk.”

Current and former Capital Gazette employees — including some who survived the shooting rampage — came together to bury Fischman. Also at the service were journalists from the other newspapers he had worked at throughout his career, including The Carroll County Times and The Diamondback, the student newspaper at the University of Maryland.

Former colleagues said it was at The Capital that Fischman really found his niche.

Shor, the rabbi, said Fischman’s life was defined by the Yiddish word “beshert,” which means pre-ordained.

That was best exemplified, he said, by the way Fischman met his wife. More than a decade ago, they both attended an opera performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Erica Fischman, a former opera singer from Mongolia, usually sat in another section of the theater and typically attended on a different day of the week — but not that time.

They struck up conversation, and she remembers checking to see whether the kind gentleman beside her was wearing a wedding ring. He wasn’t. They began a relationship that family said would bring Fischman more joy than anything he had experienced in his first 50 years of life.

Erica Fischman has a 30-year-old daughter, Uka Saran, from a previous relationship. She said that the first time Saran referred to Fischman as “dad,” her husband’s eyes sparkled.

“You made me the happiest woman on the Earth,” Erica Fischman said, “and gave me the best years of my life.”

Gerald Fischman came from a small family, but treasured his close relationships with his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He was the youngest of five cousins, and the four elder family members all spoke Sunday.

His cousin Glen Mazis, also a writer, recalled a time when he was trying to publish a philosophy book, but the copy editor quit the project at the last minute. Fischman “came to the rescue,” and insisted on poring over every word in the roughly 450-page book.

“Gerald came in, caught all the mistakes and wasn’t thrown off by the arcane philosophy at all,” Mazis said.

He described his cousin as moving through the world in a quiet way, like “a gentle breeze that refreshed the soul without knowing where it came from.”

Mazis said he hopes Fischman continues to write editorials for the “Celestial News” and make the angels laugh.

In life, Fischman’s writing would occasionally discuss gun violence. He wrote with passion, disgust and clarity about America’s mass shootings.

After the Orlando nightclub massacre in 2016, he wrote: “Of all the words this week, hopelessness may be the most dangerous. We must believe there is a solution, a way to prevent another mass shooting. We must believe that we can find it if only we try little harder.”

His wife said Fischman often talked about writing a novel once he retired from his lifelong career as a newspaperman.

Now that he’s gone, she says, she’s thinking of putting together a book filled with his poems.

trichman@baltsun.com

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