William H. Fisher, Korean War veteran who went on to work in finance, dies

William H. Fisher, a Korean War veteran who worked at some of the city’s eminent financial firms, died June 16 of a stroke. He was days shy of his 90th birthday.

Born in 1928, Mr. Fisher grew up along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border in a town settled by Welsh laborers called Delta, Pa. As a youth, he played in the abandoned pits of local quarries where workers had long excavated Peach Bottom slate. Often called the best slate in the world, Peach Bottom slate was used to make blackboards, roof tiles and gravestones.

Mr. Fisher’s father, William John Fisher, was a contractor, and his mother, Iva, was a homemaker. He had two older sisters: Marian (known as “Boots”) and Edith.

He studied accounting at the University of Maryland, where he also met his future wife, Jean Devries Reifschneider.

The couple moved to Baltimore after graduation. During the Korean War, Mr. Fisher did one tour of duty and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.

After the war, Mr. Fisher returned to Baltimore and began his career in finance. His first job was at the accounting firm Lybrand, Ross Bros & Montgomery, which later became part of PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 1959, he joined Legg & Co., which became Legg Mason, before becoming a senior vice president and treasurer at Equitable Bank.

At Legg & Co., he met longtime friend Jim Stradner. “I guess one could say that we were both new to the investment business,” said Mr. Stradner. Another bond: “We both had young children and old houses,” he said.

Mr. Fisher lived in Towson’s Stoneleigh neighborhood with his first wife and their two sons. He was very handy around the house, recalled his son David Fisher. “He could build cabinets, he was always putting things together,” he said.

Mr. Stradner remembered his friend as “a great gentleman” who was “very financially astute.” In business, Mr. Fisher advocated for companies to think always of the future and to adopt technology like mainframe computers. But just as noteworthy were his interpersonal skills, said Mr. Stradner.

“He was very good with people, and that includes people that were above him and also below him,” said Mr. Stradner.

Mr. Fisher trained his sons in the ways of a gentleman, recalled David Fisher, to stand when a woman enters the room and to always hold the door.

“‘When you shake a person’s hand, you shake it with a firm grip and you look them in the eye,’” he told them. It’s a habit the younger Mr. Fisher said he carries with him to this day. “Whenever I get a firm handshake from someone, I’m always impressed,” he said.

In his free time, Mr. Fisher enjoyed competitive sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, goose hunting on the Eastern Shore, and camping out and waking up before dawn on freezing cold mornings. He also belonged to a number of social organizations including the Ski Club of Maryland and served as a volunteer treasurer for the Church of the Good Shepherd and on the Stoneleigh PTA.

The first Mrs. Fisher died in 1995. That year, Mr. Fisher met Mary Lu Mercer Holter, a consulting executive with IBM, while she was working in her garden. He offered to help with a project she was struggling with.

“He was my knight in shining armor,” said the second Mrs. Fisher. “He was the love of my life and I was very, very fortunate.”

It was a “total surprise” to fall in love in her 60s, said Mrs. Fisher, who had also known Mr. Fisher’s previous wife, Jean.

“She was just lovely,” Mrs. Fisher remembered. “Tall and slender and beautiful and quiet — like I’m not.”

Mr. Fisher felt conflicted by the love he still had for his recently deceased wife and his new flame. But a counselor assured him that “loving them both doesn’t diminish your love for either one,” said Mrs. Fisher.

The two married in 1996, and for more than two decades enjoyed traveling around the world, often on cruises. The second marriage, said David Fisher, “opened up an entire experience” for his father. “The man got to places I’ll never see,” he said.

Mrs. Fisher looked back on their many trips fondly. “The world is full of wonderful people and we truly enjoyed them,” she said.

For one trip, they returned to the area of South Korea where Mr. Fisher had lived during the war. While they were there, said Mrs. Fisher, people would approach him to ask, “Did you fight for our country?” When he told them he had, she said, “they would bow with their hands clasped as if in prayer and they would say, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

Services will be held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Towson at 11 a.m. on July 14.

In addition to his wife and son David, Mr. Fisher is survived by another son, John Fisher of Los Angeles; three grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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A previous version of this story misidentified William H. Fisher's father. The story has been corrected.
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