Longtime resident named marshal

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2000

Jim Fisher said he hopes it wasn't just his good looks and dignified wave that won him the position of grand marshal for Progress Days 2000.

Fisher said he believes his community involvement is the reason he was selected. He sits on the board of directors for the Soldotna Historical Society and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

"Usually parade marshals are senior citizens," Fisher said. "And as you can see, I'm a senior citizen."

Fisher retired from the Department of Law, Criminal Division in 1986, when oil prices plummeted and the economy took it on the chin.

"I was catapulted into retirement," he said.

Fisher said he decided to use the largest portion of his energy assisting Alaska Legal Services Corp. on an all pro bono basis.

"My wife told me, 'You can do a pro bono job if you have a working wife,'" Fisher said.

He said he loved his working wife very much and always was captivated by her sense of humor. Helen Fisher was recognized as an honoree at the August Women's Run last year. She died from cancer on Jan. 11.

Last year, Fisher walked in the Progress Days Parade. He said that by the end of the march, he was exhausted. Luckily, being named grand marshal carries with it the benefit of cruising the parade route in a golden Sebring donated by Kenai Chrysler.

"I can't remember the last time I got to ride in a convertible," he said.

Fisher said his favorite facet of a parade is its ability to bring a town together.

"We are social beings. That's why community involvement is important. We belong to family communities, professional communities and civic communities. Parades are an excellent display for community activities. Organizations can pass out brochures and attract attention by building floats," he said.

Fisher said he is proud that his family has been a part of the Alaska community. His grandfather died in a cabin fire in the Yukon.

In 1935, Fisher would listen to his parents tell him about the Matanuska Valley settlement project. The couple had tried to migrate to Alaska in 1908, but bad weather forced their vessel back to Seattle. It was in 1955 when Fisher arrived in Alaska and found work as an insurance adjuster.

"Things were wide open," he said. "You were welcome if you'd participate and work."

The following year, Fisher was hired as a clerk for U.S. District Court for the Territory of Alaska. In 1958, he worked on the civic committee behind Operation Statehood and was elected to the first state Legislature.

Since 1960, the longest period of time Fisher has been out of Alaska was in 1987 when he and Helen visited family in New Mexico for two weeks.

He said he is keeping busy in his golden years.

"I like to attend the chamber meetings to lend my support," he said. "I don't go for the speaker or the food, I go to support."

Fisher first sat in on a Kenai Chamber of Commerce meeting in 1961. He said he continues to attend meetings in both Kenai and Soldotna in order to keep up on area happenings.

"My wife said I never encountered a meeting I didn't want to attend," he said. "I always get an interesting piece of information."

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