Acknowledged by the Armed Forces as the nation’s most dedicated patriot, Zachary Fisher considered himself to be the luckiest man alive. He had two rewarding careers, one in the investment building sector of New York’s real estate industry, the other as a private citizen serving his country. Born in Brooklyn, young Zachary left high school at age 16 to help in the family construction business. He laid bricks until a serious accident nearly cost him his left leg. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he was rejected by the military due to his injury.
Over the years the family business skyrocketed along with Zach’s devotion to his country. Fisher Construction is an industry leader contributing some of the most prestigious corporate office buildings in to New York City. After 50 successful years as a real estate developer, Zachary Fisher embarked on a new career that would ultimately touch the lives of thousands of Americans. He wanted to give something back to those who gave their lives to preserve his freedom. Zachary’s wife, Elizabeth, was also passionate about serving the armed forces from her time spent traveling overseas during World War II as an entertainer with the USO.
Their marriage in 1943 was the beginning of a love story – two extraordinary people with a deep devotion to each other and their country. They began searching for ways to support service members and their families around the world. In 1983, the Fishers established the “Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Forces Foundation” to provide financial assistance to military families in need. That need arose when 47 crewmen were killed in a 1989 turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa. The Fishers gave each of the families $25,000 along with a letter explaining that while nothing could compensate the loss of their loved ones, they hoped there was some comfort in knowing that two strangers cared enough about their grief to send a token of their gratitude. They also stepped in to help the 241 families of casualties from the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut.
Their generosity to our nation is unparalleled. Besides enormous financial assistance, college scholarships and the building of New York’s Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, they continued to ask what more they could do. It was Pauline Trost, wife of former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Carlisle Trost, who suggested the idea for comfort homes located near military hospitals. This need fit perfectly with their objectives. The Houses became a tangible way of expressing their gratitude to the men and women in uniform.
“Where there is a military, there will always be a Fisher House. Where there is a Fisher House, there will always be love and caring, warmth and compassion,” said Zachary.
In 1998, Zachary Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor our country can bestow on a civilian. In 1999, Public Law 106-161 conferred “honorary veteran” status on philanthropist Zachary Fisher, making him only the second individual in our nation’s history so recognized (Bob Hope was the first). The Fishers’ vision has resulted in the building of 80 Fisher Homes for Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs hospitals. If that number isn’t impressive enough, on any given night, up to 1,000 families can safely at a Fisher House free of charge.