Charles Osborne Fisher Sr., 95, a long standing Westminster attorney, bank director, past chair of the Health Services Cost Review Commission and last surviving co-founder of Carroll Hospital Center, died June 22 at his home after a brief illness.
In addition to his leadership in local, state and national legal circles, Fisher was also known as a distinguished member of the banking, medical and political community and was a member of St. John Catholic Church.
He was a member of the New Windsor State Bank board of directors for more than 60 years. In addition to being one of the co-founders of Carroll Hospital Center in 1961, Fisher also served on the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission for 11 years, beginning in 1986.
Fisher was the chair of the Governor's Salary Commission from 1978 to 1986, and locally served as chair of Westminster's Bicentennial Committee and the Carroll County Civil War Centennial Commission.
His obituary states that Fisher, "marched in the civil rights movement, attended the 1968 Democratic convention, challenged leaders to do what is right for the community at large and advocated for effective and transparent governance of community institutions."
Although he was born in Washington D.C., on June 15, 1917, he moved with his parents to Westminster in 1921 when he was 4 years old. Fisher's father had come to Westminster to start the first Ford dealership in Carroll County. Several years later, around 1923, Main Street was paved.
He once said, "I should know" when it was paved — because as a youngster, he would help his father push Ford automobiles up Main Street, from the railroad station to the Ford showroom, where the cars were finished being put together and sold.
His parents purchased a home on Court Street, just across the street from the courthouse, in 1924.
According to an article published in spring 1996, in the University of Maryland Law School's alumni magazine, JD, attorney David Carrera wrote of Fisher that, "As a youngster, he got to know the players in the Carroll County legal system by doing odd jobs for them. He didn't know it at the time, but these odd jobs would help shape his career, and eventually his life."
At the age of 16, Fisher graduated from St. John Catholic High School, which at the time was located on Main Street in Westminster.
"In 1938, he graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore and that same year was admitted to the evening program at the University of Maryland School of Law. He worked at the Department of Public Welfare during the day, and attended classes three evenings a week," Carrera wrote.
Fisher's studies were interrupted by World War II.
He served for five years in theU.S. Army, from 1941 to 1946, when he discharged at the rank of captain in the Signal Corps.
It was during the war that he married Margaret Gunther of Baltimore on weekend pass in November 1942. They celebrated 69 years of marriage before her death this past December.
He was a proud member of the American Legion Carroll Post 31 of Westminster, and marched at the head of Westminster's annual Memorial Day parade with other local veterans.
According to JD, when Fisher returned "to Westminster in 1946, one of the distinguished attorneys for whom he used to run errands as a child, D. Eugene Walsh, asked Fisher to join his practice as a second principal."
Walsh's law firm dates back to 1896. Fisher joined in 1946 and his son, Charles Fisher Jr., joined in 1972.
"Since the war had interrupted his education, (Fisher) still needed to complete his last year of law school in order to receive his degree. With the opportunity to join one of the early and successful lawyers in the county hanging in the balance, he decided to file a petition in the Court of Appeals to take the bar exam prior to receiving his degree," according to the JD account.
"He was granted that right and passed the bar on his first try in the summer of 1946. Later that year he went back to finish his law education and received his degree in 1947."
Much of Fisher's work, such as helping to establish Carroll Hospital Center and working with New Windsor State Bank and the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, has left a legacy that will benefit generation to follow.
Fisher was involved in a number of legal cases that still resonate today.
Along with Eugene Walsh, who served at that time as Westminster city attorney, Fisher helped represent the city in a landmark municipal water supply case, Bair v. Mayor and City Council of Westminster. On July 20, 1966, the Court of Appeals of Maryland compelled the city to provide water to land outside the city limits.
JD Magazine quoted Fisher as saying, "When I first started, a handshake in this town sealed a deal, people stayed good to their word. … Things are more complicated today, and the profession has made the necessary changes to keep things in order."
In a June 1997article in the Baltimore Business Journal, by Rob Kaiser, Peter P. Parvis, then a Venable attorney for the Maryland Hospital Coalition, said of Fisher, "He has many years of both experience and the old school gentleman lawyer approach, which I think helps in almost any endeavor…"
Fisher's family will receive friends at the Pritts Funeral Home and Chapel, 412 Washington Road, Westminster on Tuesday, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 27, at St. John Catholic Church, 43 Monroe St., Westminster. Private interment with military honors will take place at St. John Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to St. John Catholic School, 43 Monroe St., Westminster or Carroll Hospital Center Foundation, 200 Memorial Ave., Westminster, MD 21157.