September 19, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO community mourns death of Glenn Fisher: ‘He had a heart of gold’

Glenn Fisher liked to tease people.

Whether he was telling the newly hired football coach at St. Joseph-Ogden High School that he had never met a football coach who knew what they were talking about or telling the SJO school resource officer he was having a good day before he saw her.

In essence, if he took a moment to give you a hard time, he was letting you know he liked you.

Those moments, however, won’t happen anymore. Fisher passed away Jan. 7 at the age of 81.

SJO Superintendent Brian Brooks said his fondest memory of Fisher was sitting next to Fisher watching an SJO athletic event.

“And him giving me a hard time about whatever topic he chose,” Brooks said. “He liked to sit on the bleachers in the southeast corner of the gym during basketball or volleyball games, so I always made it a point to go over and talk to him. He always found something to razz me about, which I learned very quickly when I came here 18 years ago that it meant he really liked you as a person. I felt very honored back then, and still do to this day, that Glenn Fisher thought enough of me to spend time with me in conversation, joke around with me and share all of the knowledge he had on a variety of topics. I will really miss all of that, and sincerely cherish all of the times I did share with him.”

Despite his death, Fisher left an indelible legacy at the high school he loved. For more than 30 years Fisher served as SJO’s head custodian and made sure the Spartans sports complex, which will soon bear his name, was in immaculate condition.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary. She passed away in 2017. He was also preceded in death by his son, Andrew, and daughter, Karen Fisher-Peters.

He is survived by his daughter, Leslie Fisher of Champaign, and granddaughter, Karson Peters of Champaign.

“He was truly a good man,” said Alicia Maxey, a family friend. “He was like a father to me, and I was blessed to know him.”

Maxey said he would often tease her that he was having a good day before he saw her.

“Glenn was humble and didn’t like special attention, but he was a loyal friend,” Maxey said. “He had a way about him that made my day brighter when I saw him.”

Maxey and Fisher often worked together when Maxey was the School Resource Officer at SJO. She said that when she started at the school, Fisher was already semi-retired but was driving a bus route. When he completely retired, he would still donate countless hours working to make the school better.

“He was always helping with something,” she said. “Especially the football field.”

Fisher’s pride in how the football field looked led to a friendship with former SJO football coach Dick Duval.

Fisher was the first person Duval met after his interview in 1988 and Fisher told Duval he had never met a football coach who knew what they were talking about.

“He later told me that he just said that to see if he could get a reaction out of me,” Duval said.

Duval and Fisher had breakfast together every Friday morning since Duval’s second year at SJO, a tradition they continued even after Duval retired from coaching in 2015.

“Every Friday he always said in front of his cronies as I walked into the restaurant, ‘If he would have just listened to me we would have had five state championships,’” said Duval, who compiled a 251-75 record with the Spartans that included five state runner-up finishes.  “He always said it with a smile. It was his way of saying that he loved me.”

Brooks said Fisher will be remembered for how how selfless he was. Brooks said when he was hired in 2003 as a teacher and a coach, he assumed Fisher still worked at the high school because he was working on something outside. Even on the weekends, Brooks would see Fisher outside on a tractor moving something, watering the football field or planting grass seed.

Come to find out, Fisher had retired a few years prior.

“He was doing that completely on his own and all to make SJO a better place,” Brooks said. “He was not being paid a dime. Strictly volunteer. He would do anything, for just about anyone. He treated people how he would hope to be treated. No matter who you were. I’m not sure I’ve met a better man. Our country needs more Glenn Fishers. Especially right now.”

Former SJO Superintendent Jim Acklin said Fisher would be remembered for always having a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye.
“He definitely enjoyed being part of the SJO family, long after he retired,” Acklin said. “He was SJO through and through. A great guy with a wealth of institutional knowledge who is unfortunately gone as far as his physical presence, but not in the memories of those of us who knew him and loved him.”

Brooks agreed.

“As a person who did not grow up in the SJO community, when I think of SJO, there are a few names and faces that come to mind for me, and Glenn is certainly on that list,” he said. “Glenn Fisher is SJO. For me personally, it is not only due to all that he has done for SJO, but Glenn epitomizes the culture we strive to maintain daily at SJO in our roles as administrators. This is a huge loss for the SJO community, as Glenn Fisher is what we all strive to be no matter what our roles are. He set a great example, and a very high bar, for all of us to live up to.”

Duval said he will never forget how Fisher would do anything for the kids at SJO. One example that Duval will always remembered happened in 1998. The Spartans played a home playoff game on a Wednesday night.
It was pouring rain and the field was destroyed. Duval met Fisher after the game and asked if he was going to roll the field even though the next playoff game was an away game. Duval said Fisher started laughing and responded with, ‘Why? You are just going to lose anyway.’

On Saturday, the Spartans played at Central A&M, who hadn’t lost a home game in five years. They were the defending state champions and SJO had lost the Class 2A state title game to them the year before. This time, though, the Spartans won 18-12.

“As we got off the interstate coming home I could see the lights on the football field were on,” Duval said. “As we pulled into the school, I could see Glenn on tractor pulling the roller over the field. He would do anything at anytime for the kids at SJO.”

Duval said another treasured memory of his friend involves the Class 3A state championship game in 2013. Duval let Fisher ride the bus to distant playoff games, and since the game was in DeKalb, he was happy to ride the bus. Fisher always gave the coaches chocolate candy as a good luck charm. When the bus arrived in DeKalb, Fisher joked with Duval, ‘If you don’t win, don’t get back on the bus after the game.’
The Spartans lost 43-41 in overtime to Stillman Valley.

“As I stepped onto the bus, I turned to Glenn and asked if I could get back on the bus,” Duval said. “Glenn just grabbed my hand and said, ‘It’s not fair.’ I cried most of the way home, and Glenn just held my hand the whole time. Glenn had a heart of gold. I love Glenn Fisher. He would have done anything for me if I asked him. Even at the end when he was hurting, he was more worried about how I was feeling. I miss him.”

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