Frank P. Fischer, mentor who fought predatory mortgages, dies

Frank Patrick Fischer, who had a career as a teacher and counselor preparing students for high school and later fought predatory mortgage lending in the city, died of multiple organ failure Nov. 16 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The former Mayfield resident was 92.

Born in Endicott, N.Y., he was the son of Frank Fischer, an IBM technician, and his wife, Florence Coleman.

He was a graduate of Union Endicott High School and was captain of the school’s basketball team. At age 17 he joined the Navy and served in the Pacific at the end of World War II.

After leaving the military he obtained a bachelor’s degree at the University of Scranton and decided to pursue a religious vocation. He entered the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit Fathers, in 1951 and spent two years as a missionary in Burma. He left the country when its government expelled his order.

He received a theology degree at the old Woodstock College and was ordained to the priesthood in 1963.

In 1967 he joined the faculty of Loyola High School at Blakefield. He soon began working with eighth-grade African-American students who were then living in some of the city’s poorest communities. He also taught at the old Ralph Young Junior High School in the Oliver community, where he worked to get promising seventh- and eighth-graders into academic high schools.

Ralph E. Moore Jr., who grew up in Sandtown-Winchester, recalled arriving as a high school freshman and encountering Mr. Fischer’s humor and easy charm.

“It was mainly Frank who recruited African-American students to Loyola High School, [and] for that he was greatly loved,” said Mr. Moore.

Other friends said Mr. Fischer was a dedicated, low-key activist who focused attention on Baltimore’s poor neighborhoods.

Erich W. March, another student mentored by Mr. Fischer said: “Frank was an adviser, guardian and facilitator who made a way for us at Loyola. We were not in our element, and Frank was there to navigate us through awkward situations. He was our guide in the storm.”

Vincent Quayle, who knew Mr. Fischer from their days as Jesuit priests, said Mr. Fischer worked hard to “open Loyola High School to black kids. And it worked. When they came back from college, years later, they would all go to see him. For some, Frank was the father they never had.”

In 1977 Mr. Fischer left the priesthood and married Jeanne Bur. They settled in Mayfield and he changed careers. He joined Saint Ambrose Housing Aid Center and worked with Mr. Quayle.

He initially sought qualified renters to buy homes in the Harwood neighborhood, and later became a mortgage counselor.

“Frank was a people person and started by going door-to-door in Harwood,” said Cathy Semans, who worked with him. “He had a pastoral style. He preached respect for all people. And as our office received members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, he loved the energy of the young kids. He was a father figure to them as well.”

“I think we might have been one of the first places in the country to do default counseling,” Mr. Fischer said in a St. Ambrose publication in 2007. “The problem in default counseling is the immoral or unfair loans that are given to people. I guess we can still call them predatory loans. It’s tragic because people are losing their houses left and right because the loans are so bad.”

Mr. Fischer also said, “A lot of times this stuff is legal. The spoken word has led the client to understand the opposite of what the client signs on paper. So it’s legal, but to my point of view — immoral.”

He was quoted in The Sun when, as a housing counselor, he discovered people were seeking his help not because of sickness, marriage failure or unemployment, but because they had been duped into buying homes at exorbitant prices by unscrupulous house flippers. Colleagues said he helped forecast the 2008 mortgage crisis.

Mr. Fischer rarely drove a car to his East 25th Street office. He walked from his Crossland Avenue home in Mayfield and crossed Clifton Park. He habitually carried a golf club — friends said he used it as a walking stick but that he also hit stray golf balls. He walked mornings and evenings 45 minutes each way.

He retired in 2008 and moved to Glen Meadows Assisted Living.

His former students, who went on to their own careers, revered the role he played in their lives and created a Frank Fischer Diversity Scholarship Fund. They organized a charity golf tournament and a banquet in his honor this year.

“Frank firmly believed in the benefits of creating a learning and social environment at Blakefield that broke down barriers and created access and opportunity for all. His tireless efforts toward the meaningful integration of Loyola in the 1960s and ’70s not only enhanced the institution, but forged lifelong bonds between him and the young men he guided and transitioned here,” said Loyola Blakefield’s president, Anthony Day, in a statement.

“He did so much for so many that the value of countless dollars will not match the total of his goodness to us all,” Mr. Moore said.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St. He was a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Mr. Fischer is survived by numerous nieces and nephews. His wife of 33 years died in 2011.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
48°