Thursday February 21, 2013

GRAFTON -- After a close friend told more than 100 guests at Tuesday's memorial service how much Beatrice B. Fisher had meant to him, other attendees dried their eyes, grabbed some food and mingled with each other to chat about old times.

And that's exactly the way Fisher would have wanted it.

Referred to as an icon and a treasure within the town, Fisher died Wednesday, Feb. 13, leaving behind scores of friends and family members that packed the Stanley A. Mack Firestation to celebrate the life of a dear friend and community member.

Maj. Christopher Wallace (Ret.), a member of Grafton Grange #177, started the event by speaking from a podium and thanking everyone for their presence.

Bea Fisher
Bea Fisher
He also expressed his gratitude to Fisher's children -- Maureen Fletcher, Cynthia Greulich, Barbara Rogers, Deborah Litchfield, Sheryl Miller, Dr. Lynn Miller, Cecile Smith and Warren Fisher -- for sharing their mother with him and the rest of the town.

"Please know that as your mother was always here for all of us, we now are here for you," he said. "She was a Vermont Mother of the Year -- and a mother to all."

Greulich, of Millington, Tenn., told the Reformer anyone who knew her mother held a very glowing opinion of her.

"What I would say is what everyone else would say -- that she was one of the most giving people ever," she said.

Fisher's grandson, Robbie Sprague, said he wasn't at all surprised by the heavy turnout for this grandmother.


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"I didn't expect anything less," he said.

Fisher was born in Saxtons River in 1925 and graduated from Bellows Falls High School in 1943. An active Girl Scout, she grew up on a farm and learned to sugar, hay and milk. She married Grafton resident Vern Fisher on Oct. 24, 1944, and moved to Fisher Hill, where she remained the rest of her life. Her husband died in 1980.

Over the years, "Busy Bea," as she was known, worked for the United State Postal Service, as a school bus driver, a school cook, an Avon representative and as a newspaper correspondent.

Wallace, a former 25-year veteran of the U.S. Army, said when he began settling into civilian life in Grafton it became apparent that Fisher was the person he should try to emulate.

"And even though I was fresh out of the Army and only half her age, it became just as quickly apparent that there was no way that I was ever going to keep up with her," he said to laughter.

Wallace went on to recall a time when he sat down with Fisher to plan the annual May 30 Memorial Day Observance. He said Fisher asked him if he remembered to call his mother on Mother's Day and he had to tell Fisher his mother had died while he was in the service. He told the crowd that Fisher, who he described as the epitome of a Vermonter, then did what she did so well -- she opened her arms, put them around him and said, "You're one of mine now."

Fletcher, of Saxtons River, told the Reformer she was overwhelmed with people's kindness and the love they expressed for her mother. While talking with friends and family members, she was repeatedly stopped by locals who wanted to tell her how much they loved her mother.

The parking lot included cars from California, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and other states.

Fletcher said the family chose to hold the memorial service at the town's fire station because of Fisher's close connection to it. Like many other groups in the area, Fisher cared greatly for the Grafton Volunteer Fire Department -- even before one of its members saved her life.

Richard Thompson described that day in 2010 he will never forget. He got a call around 5 p.m. that there was a structure fire on Fisher Hill and rushed over in his personal truck to the house. He said when he got there, a front window had been smashed by the wife of Fisher's grandson, who told Thompson that Fisher was trapped inside.

Thompson said he kicked in the front door and crawled around on the floor looking for Fisher until he found her curled up in the fetal position in a room and got her out. Fletcher said the house, which burned to the ground, would have turned a century old this year.

"It was something," recalled Thompson, who has been with the department for about five years. "We got lucky."

Thompson said he considered Fisher "a living legend" for all she did.

"She was an institution around here. After that fire, I couldn't go anywhere without people walking up to me (to thank me) because she knew everybody," he said. "She was around town and involved with everything. She was always helping somebody."

Fire Chief Eric Stevens said Fisher, who he called a community treasure, had been a big supporter of the department both before and after her rescue. Sprague is now a lieutenant with the department.

"(Fisher) was one of first ones to bring food and drink. ... One of her famous provisions was scrambled egg sandwiches that were just excellent," Stevens said. "She was a community icon. There was never a mean bone in her body. She was always helping somebody."

Wallace said Fisher will be missed by all her friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The public is invited a burial of Fisher's ashes at the Houghtonville Cemetery and a celebration of her life at the family farm on July 13. The family says there is plenty of room for everyone to pay their respects.