For six decades, Charlie Fisher played a role in impacting lives in the Gas City community and Mississinewa School Corporation.
As a teacher, a coach and a board member, Fisher created a lasting legacy that won’t soon be forgotten to his former students, players and co-workers.
Fisher, 90, died on Thursday.
“He was a public servant in this community in the realm of education for 60 years. Who do you know that has made that kind of commitment to a school and a community?” said Tab McKenzie, Superintendent of Mississinewa Community School Corporation by phone Friday afternoon. “Twenty years as a board member, 40 years as a teacher and 36 years as a varsity football coach.
“Everybody that played for Charlie isn’t going to be able to go to the funeral, but if there was anyway they could, they would all be there,” McKenzie added. “That’s the kind of affection and loyalty and camaraderie he helped establish, a culture where kids felt a lot of pride and felt like they were apart of a community ... a family. There was something we all had in common, everybody that played for him and wore that uniform have special memories and we all love to talk about.”
Fisher was born in Evansville and went to high school at Reitz before moving on to play college football at Indiana University then the University of Evansville.
He found his way to Gas City to teach and coach at Mississinewa in 1954 and won more than 200 games, 13 conference championships, four sectionals and one regional title, but his impact runs much deeper than wins and losses.
“My fondest memories of Coach Fisher are really non football. He took an interest in me more than just in practice and of the field,” said Gonzo Barajas, director of sport facilities and recreation at Ball State and a 1989 Ole Miss graduate. “I think he knew that I hadn’t been exposed to a lot things other kids had been exposed to. As I was thinking about it earlier today, I remember two things I did with him. He took me to a Colts game … I’d never been to a professional football game, and he took me to a game just to expose me to something that he knew I’d never been exposed to and knew it would be difficult for me to financially get to do.”
Barajas said that the trip included stopping at the house of one of Fisher’s daughters for supper than evening in Noblesville, and the whole day left a lasting impression for him.
“(The trip had) nothing to do with football whatsoever, just that he was willing to take - at that age and that time - a personal interest in me that had nothing to do with playing the game of football,” Barajas said. “Talking to me about life in general, staying out of trouble and the importance of doing well in school and sharing with me about his own life. … Sharing personal things with me ... my fondest memory of him is very personal to me, nothing to do with playing football.”
Fisher taught civics, physical education, health and drivers education for 39 years and his success on the football field led to the Indians’ home field taking on his namesake, Charlie Fisher Field, several years ago.
McKenzie played for Fisher as a 1975 graduate of Mississinewa, then coach under him in the early to mid 1980s and his success can be traced to few certain things.
“He didn’t care if you were rich or poor, if your parents were well know and powerful in the community of if you came from situation of a working class family,” McKenzie said, “None of that mattered to him. In his stetting we were all equal. ... He loved football and he loved his players.”
Fisher was inducted into the Grant County Sports Hall of Fame and the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, along with the University of Evansville Athletic Hall of Fame.
Services for Fisher will be held at 1 p.m. on Jan. 18 in Mississinewa High School. Visitation begins at 11 a.m.