Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Westminster attorney remembered for inspiration, loyalty

A man's life can be measured in a number of ways. Wealth. Status. Friendships.

The friends and family members of Charles O. Fisher Sr. said the life of the longtime Westminster attorney could be measured by the number of people he inspired. Fisher, who died Friday at 95 years old, was a man of integrity and loyalty, two traits he wanted everyone to share, they said.

Fisher gave 65 years of his life to the justice system and the practice of law. Three of his children became lawyers - two of them went to the same college and law school as their father.

"When you grew up in Charles Fisher's house, you believed that [being a lawyer] was a noble profession and that you were meant to help people," said his youngest child, Miriam Fisher, a partner at the Latham & Watkins law firm in Washington, D.C. "It has been my privilege to continue his legacy as best as I can.

"If you had a father like Charles Fisher, you'd want to walk in his footsteps, too."

Fisher graduated from Loyola College in 1938, then began taking night classes at the University of Maryland School of Law while serving as a social worker in Baltimore. His law education was interrupted by America's involvement in World War II.

He enlisted in the Army in 1941 and married Margaret Gunther in 1942 while on leave. He served in the Army's Signal Corps and was discharged in 1946 as a captain.

Once he returned home, Fisher was given the opportunity to join D. Eugene Walsh in Westminster to form the law firm Walsh & Fisher. Fisher successfully petitioned the Court of Appeals of Maryland to allow him to take the bar before graduating from law school in order to accept the new job in Westminster.

Fisher passed the bar in 1946 then graduated from law school in 1947. Fisher practiced law for 65 years, until retiring earlier this year.

Charles Fisher Jr. practiced law for more than 40 years with his father and is now the president of Walsh & Fisher. Working every day with his father, Charles Fisher Jr. said he saw firsthand what it meant to have integrity.

"He expected honesty and transparency from himself and everyone else," Fisher Jr. said. "He has absolutely been an inspiration to me."

A pillar of the law community, the elder Fisher served as president of the Maryland State Bar Association, Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers and University of Maryland Law School Alumni Association.

A Baltimore attorney sent Fisher Jr. an email telling him how much his father meant to the attorney.

"The thing about your dad that was so special is that he always elevated everyone around him just by his example," the email read. "Everyone that dealt with him wanted to be like him."

Growing up, Miriam Fisher said she would only get to see her father for 90 minutes a day. He was always busy. One Christmas, as Miriam remembers, her father got a phone call from a Westminster resident hoping to get a family member out of jail for the holidays. Her father promptly left his house to see what he could do to help the family.

"He was always ready to help take care of people and see if he could help them and work out their problems," Miriam said. "He never hesitated for a minute no matter how inconvenient, no matter how tired he was, no matter if it was Sunday or Christmas or 9 o'clock at night."

In 2007, Miriam Fisher endowed a University of Maryland Law School scholarship in her father's name. Two people have been named the Charles O. Fisher Leadership Scholar.

Aside from practicing law, Fisher's other great passion was the Carroll County General Hospital, now Carroll Hospital Center. He was part of a group of business and professional leaders that founded the hospital. He served on the hospital's board of directors since the facility opened in 1961.

Fisher's dedication and loyalty to the hospital was legendary among board members, according to hospital president and CEO John Sernulka. It even had a phrase - the Fisher Oath.

"As long as I've known him, there was always this understanding that when you came onto the board, you came to serve the community and this hospital," Sernulka said. "Mr. Fisher established this expectation of loyalty from every person that was involved in management, served on a committee or was a community leader that served as a board member.

"He expected your loyalty to this hospital, and that was going to be your highest priority and that you were going to do the best job you could as a leader in your role."

Fisher mentored new board members and served as an example of what being a thoughtful and dedicated board member was, Sernulka said.

"His job was to inspire the board to greatness," Sernulka said.

The hospital honored the Westminster lawyer in 2009 with the dedication of the Charles O. Fisher Medical Office Building on its main campus. Fisher served on the hospital's board of directors up until his death. He served on the board for more than 50 years.

Now, Charles Fisher Jr., continues his father's legacy by serving on the board.