A Life Well Built

A Life Well Built

by Lee Kelley With Joyce Perry Fisher


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From the tapestry of human history and experience, some individuals rise above the fabric's common braid and seem destined for great achievements. Richard Fisher was one of these souls. In A Life Well Built, author Lee Kelley tells the story of this natural-born leader who was an extraordinary soldier, father, husband, pilot, engineer, and friend.

Raised in Ohio, Richard "Dick" Fisher showed natural signs of leadership at a young age. This biography spans his lifetime-through ninety years and twenty-six countries-and touches on his widespread successes. It follows him from the Ohio State University School of Engineering, to the Pennsylvania Railroad, to his work as an engineer in Ohio, and to building airports for the Army during World War II. A lifelong pilot, he flew airplanes and managed operations for Air America. He co-piloted the last aircraft to escape Saigon when the Vietnam War began and retired from the Army as a brigadier general.

A Life Well Built shows the depth of this man who accomplished feats that most people could only dream of. This biography demonstrates that Fisher's life was a solid, inspired piece of engineering; he created a personal masterpiece in the art of living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440197208
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/25/2010
Pages: 148
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.34(d)

About the Author

Lee Kelley is a published author and creative writer. He also operates his own professional writing company called Desert Sun Writing, LLC.

Read an Excerpt

A Life Well-Built

The Authorized Biography of Brigadier General Richard (Dick) E. Fisher
By Lee Kelley Joyce Perry Fisher

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Lee Kelley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4401-9720-8

Chapter One

From the tapestry of human history and experience, there sometimes come forth individuals who rise above the fabric's common braid and seem destined for great things. Richard Fisher was one of these souls.

It was a seemingly random moment in America, but World War I was about to begin in earnest. Airplanes flew in countless air corridors. Soldiers shot their weapons and trained for war. Human endeavor was growing in leaps and bounds, and military conflict for the United States of America looked unavoidable.

In Alice, Ohio, Perry and Vergie Fisher were caught up in their own moment. She was giving birth to their first child, and Perry looked on, holding her hand. It was a warm morning on July 7, 1914, and on the second floor of a modest house on his grandfather's farm, Richard Evan Fisher came into this world.

Time did not stop. The wind didn't gust, nor could any haunting distant church bells be heard. But that morning, a very special individual joined the human race-one who would care honestly about the people he encountered, would love and learn deeply, and would truly be a natural-born leader. This baby would grow up to be an extraordinary soldier, father, husband, pilot, engineer, and friend. He would go on to a life of distinguished leadership, but no one knew any of that yet; right then, he was a helpless, crying infant in charge of nothing.

Baby "Richie" began crawling all over the house at a very young age. His father had a creamery business and collected milk from all the surrounding farms to test it for butterfat content. They used sulfuric acid to separate the butterfat from the milk. The acid was stored in large glass bottles called carboys, which were kept in the kitchen on a table covered with a white cloth.

When Richie was very young, he crawled over and pulled on the tablecloth. The carboy fell onto the floor and smashed, spilling sulfuric acid everywhere. The adults cleaned Richie up as much as they could with water, but the sulfuric acid left scars on his arms and one leg and a small cleft in his nose, which he would have for the rest of his life.

Early on, Richie's father had visions of his son becoming a military man. When Richie was three, his father had a World War I-style uniform fitted for him.

In addition to the creamery business, Perry Fisher also owned a restaurant, which was operated by Vergie Fisher, as well as a machine shop with five or six mechanics who worked on Maxwell automobiles. Maxwell was famous as one of the first cars that sold really well.

Richie spent countless hours in his baby carriage with his mother, either in the restaurant or in the machine shop which were located right next door to each other. There was a family joke about Richie's first words. They were not "Dada" or "Mama," but "Dod dammit!" He couldn't pronounce the word correctly, but when the mechanics hit their fingers or hurt themselves at work and said, "Goddammit!" little Richie was listening. He was a perceptive child to say the least.

TP1[Grade School Days]TP1

Although Welsh and Gaelic are related Celtic languages, according to Dick's parents, Gaelic was the common tongue in the Fisher home. The nurses, his mother, and everybody else spoke Gaelic around the home. At the age of five, Richie began to learn English because that was the language used in his formal school.

Richie attended Ligett Grade School in Akron, Ohio, which was only a one-room building for many years. He excelled in all of his studies. The only problem the teachers noticed was his swearing. He had naturally and innocently absorbed some bad language during the large amount of time he spent around the mechanics. Richie spent more than a little bit of time on a stool wearing a dunce hat as a result.

When he reached the upper grades in grade school, he had a teacher with a strong interest in grammar, and Richie followed suit. He really enjoyed the rules of the English language, while most of the other kids in his class struggled with them. They couldn't figure out, for example, why they needed so many inflections of the same verb. Until the end of his days, he kept his fascination with grammar. He could spot a misspelled word on a storefront or in any written correspondence within seconds. He also remembered being motivated by the same teacher to continue his formal education in college.

Summers on the Farm

Richie was the oldest of five children. His Aunt Ibbie and cousin Virgil were about his age. The children were very close, but when Richie was left in charge at the age of nine, he took the responsibility quite seriously. He told the other children not to go upstairs and mess things up. He had zero tolerance. Once the children broke the rule, he sternly assigned them to the couch and proceeded to stand guard over them for hours. The other children couldn't believe that Richie actually followed through and that they actually had to sit on the couch until their parents returned. The other children didn't understand his diligence.

Richie would spend the summers working on his grandfather's farm into his teenage years. His parents sent him partly to get him out of the house for a while, but mostly to keep him productive. The same day each school year ended, Richie went to the farm and stayed there until school started again in the fall.

Richie's grandfather had twelve to fifteen horses and over thirty cows. Every spring, there were two thousand chickens. His grandfather had incubated the eggs and raised the birds from chicks. Richie hated chickens because he found them so dirty, walking around in their own droppings. He disliked eating chicken throughout his life, and even in the later years, he would say, "I just hated those chickens." Luckily, his main work was hauling water from a nearby creek and filling the chickens' pans.

When Richie turned fifteen in 1929, his family had no mechanical technology whatsoever, and all plow work on the farm was done by a team of horses. The first machine they had was a steam engine that powered a tractor, which was the only mechanical power they had. They'd use that tractor as a thresher because it had a great big wheel that could be connected with a belt to the separator, which shook out all the seeds when harvesting wheat and oats. The thresher was a machine first invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture. It was invented around 1784 for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years, grain was separated by hand with flails. It was very laborious and time consuming. Mechanization of this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labor.

Those were hard days for a kid, because on a farm, wakeup time was usually 3:00 am. Richie's first job was to go out into the field and bring in the horses, which had the run of his grandfather's 365 acres. After Richie brought all the horses in, he had to do the same with the cows. Usually, he had three to six cows to milk as well, but that always changed depending on whether his Aunt Ibbie helped him or not.

After the milking, the fresh milk went into a separator that had discs. When the wheel was turned, it would separate the cream from the milk. Cream came out of one side and skim milk the other, and all of it was put into large cans for processing. They had a butter room too, where cream was churned into butter. The smell was one Richie would never forget. There was no refrigeration in those days; therefore, they had cellars, which were simply holes dug into the earth and covered with sod so that food and dairy products would remain cool inside. Mechanical refrigeration was not used until after he was in high school.

In terms of hunting, future army general Dick Fisher was taught well the economy of force. His grandfather would hand him three shells or three bullets or arrows, and he was expected to bring back edible game for the family to eat, whether it was deer, rabbit, or something else. Nothing was wasted. Richie was not allowed to simply go out and shoot just to hear the bang like most kids. Richie didn't dare lose a shot. He didn't dare squint his eye and shoot at a tin can. He grew up around bullets and shooting and developed real skill with a gun at a very young age. By the time he reached high school, he was so good that he never missed. That earned him the nickname of "Deadeye Dick."

All in all, Dick always remembered his summers on the farm fondly. He learned the value of hard work and long hours. The hard physical labor instilled a strong work ethic in the young man that would serve him throughout his life and career.

The Great Depression

During the depression, Dick's family struggled as much as anyone else. One of his duties was to stand in line at the soup kitchen and return with soup for the family. He was very embarrassed and tried to hide the container he carried for the soup. He remembered hanging his head and recalled the shame he felt for the rest of his life. At that time, he vowed that he would rise above poverty and never live that way again.

While he was in upper grade school, he began working with his brother Hiram (whom they called "Ham" for short) as a paper carrier for the Akron Beacon Journal. He continued working for the newspaper into his college days at the University of Akron. Because he was a paperboy and an especially hardworking, dependable, and industrious young man, the Akron Beacon Journal granted him a scholarship. Little did that little boy know that the Akron Beacon Journal would go on to print news about him well into his adult life.

Even in the worst of times, everyone in Dick's family played a musical instrument. Dick had his violin. His dad's favorite was the harmonica, and his mother played the piano. Dick's brother, Ham, gravitated first to the steel guitar and then to a string guitar. It was assumed that Dick would become a real violinist someday, so his mother had him take violin lessons for fifteen years, which he hated. He got interested in the piano and played it on the side, without any instruction. He could listen to music and play it by ear. His hearing remained excellent his entire life, even into his nineties. He didn't care for the guitar but liked the banjo. He also became interested in the mandola. It was strung like a mandolin, but instead of being tuned E-A-D-G, it was A-D-G-E-F, so it had different fingering. He truly enjoyed playing it.

As time progressed, Dick joined little combo groups and then finally started his own group with his brother and their cousin Virgil. When Prohibition was repealed, they played in beer joints and also found that they could make pretty good money playing at dances. He didn't stop playing the violin; in fact, he was accepted into the school orchestra. Red Nichols and His Five Pennies were based nearby, and Dick used to play on the side with them as well. Sometime during these years, the name Richie faded for the most part and was replaced with "Dick."

Ohio National Guard

Dick's physics and algebra teacher, John Emde, took an interest in Dick's shooting skills. Mr. Emde had a rifle-pistol team, and Dick was the student in charge. Mr. Emde referred to Dick as "Fishhead."

One day, Mr. Emde asked, "Hey, Fishhead, how'd you like to shoot some real rifles and pistols?"

Dick said, "I thought I was already doing that on the team."

Mr. Emde said, "I have a little outfit that goes out every Sunday and spends some time on the range. You interested?" Dick agreed.

Mr. Emde picked Dick up at the house the next day, and they went to the rifle-pistol range. Dick amazed the older men by hitting a bull's-eye every time he pulled the trigger, whether he was standing, sitting, or prone. Dick actually remembered hitting every single target that day.

Mr. Emde said, "I've never even seen anyone do that." He added, "You want to come back next weekend? We shoot every Sunday."

Dick started practicing with this group, and then one day, Mr. Emde said, "We're going in uniform this time. So we'll have to get you fitted."

They provided Dick with an army private's uniform. It was the old-fashioned World War I-type, with wrap leggings and an old campaign hat. He wore it home proudly. When Dick walked into his house, his mother said, "Richie, what the devil happened to you?"

"Ma, I'm in the army!" he said.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm in the army! They wanted me to shoot, so I went with them and shot. They want me to come back every Sunday and stay with this group, because they're going to Camp Perry, Ohio," he said.

Camp Perry was the top rifle and pistol facility in the United States at the time. It kept its reputation; many years later, the August 2007 issue of National Guard magazine ran a story titled, "A Century of Shooting: Ohio National Guard's Camp Perry celebrates 100 years of service to American marksmanship."

Dick later found out that Mr. Emde was a captain in the Ohio National Guard and that Dick had actually been shooting with a bona fide Ohio National Guard unit (Company I, 145th Infantry).

When summer vacation came, Dick went with the unit to summer camp at Camp Perry, Ohio. There was a big shooting championship, and Dick's unit won because of his performance that day. Dick became very popular after the competition and even won some medals for his shooting skills.

Every Saturday, the unit had a full inspection of the troops. One day, the inspecting officer stopped in front of Dick's bunk. Young Fisher reported, "Lieutenant Fisher, prepared for inspection, sir!"

This officer stared at him, looked at his bed, and said, "Son, where is your shaving equipment?"

"I don't use it, sir," Dick said.

"How old are you?" the officer asked.

Dick repeated the lie that he was twenty-two years old, because that was what Captain Emde had told him to say.

"Twenty-two and no shaving equipment?" He looked at Dick closely again.

He called for Captain Emde and said, "Let's talk outside." Whatever Captain Emde said worked, because Dick heard no more of it and was allowed to continue training with the unit.

The training with the unit was the first acknowledgment of Dick's shooting ability and his introduction to military life. Dick really enjoyed the experience; it felt very natural and gave him some clear goals at a very young age.

When summer camp ended, the shooting ended as well, and Dick returned to high school to continue his regular education. He was a chemistry major and president of the Black Arts Club, which was organized for high school chemistry students.

When Dick entered college, he was asked if he had any prior military service.

Dick said yes, and they looked surprised that he answered in the affirmative.

"You can't at such an early age!" (He was still under twenty-one.)

Dick told them what had happened at Camp Perry, and they said, "Well, that can't be, because nobody can be in a military uniform at that age. You were in fraudulent enlistment. So if you insist on having this in your military record, then you're going to be subject to a court-martial for being underage."

It was finally decided that he shouldn't mention the prior military service anymore and have a real enlistment this time; therefore, he entered the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Akron, which became the official start of his military career.

Early Flying Days

Dick's flying experiences started around 1928 with an Aeronca C-3, which was a monoplane. It was very small and had only one wing. The passenger sat only four feet off the ground before the plane took off. A farmer friend of Dick's father had bought the plane, taken it apart, and found he couldn't reassemble it.

Dick's father said, "If you can put it together, I'll buy it for you." Dick studied the engine and figured it out in short order, and that was the way he started flying. Dick always thought it was a fair deal his dad had offered, and he learned a tremendous amount from the lesson.

In such a small airplane, there was only enough room for two people side by side. Fabric covered everything, including the actual frame of the airplane. The plane had a very small engine with only about thirty horsepower; in fact, it was so underpowered that Dick couldn't take off until he mowed the grass in the big lawn that he used for an airstrip. The grass pushing against the undercarriage prevented him from picking up sufficient momentum to get in the air.


Excerpted from A Life Well-Built by Lee Kelley Joyce Perry Fisher Copyright © 2010 by Lee Kelley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface by Lee Kelley....................1
Acknowledgments by Joyce Perry Fisher....................3
Introduction by Joyce Perry Fisher....................7
Chapter 1....................11
Chapter 2....................29
Chapter 3....................73
Chapter 4....................89
Chapter 5....................117
Time Line....................131

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A Life Well Built 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi! It's Cori, the author of A Storm of Light. I saw an ad in the 'erin hunter' books and read your story, but l never imagined it would be so amazing! Omg! Continue!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is really good! - obibunkenobi11
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello! That slightly sounds like my story. They had a war, then split up into groups, but, they already had there powers. So, yours, its not an orignel. But, its different enogh from mine, so I will let it pass. But, that /pass/ may, expire, if you make the story sound to much like mine. 'Dout it tho. Mine only has two things. Prolog, and Part 1. Heh. I would tell you were it is. But, I forgot. So, continue with the story! It is brillent! Go On! Write it already! Here are my applications! <br> vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv <P> Name &starf Madison May Hill <br> &hearts <br> Age &starf Same age as the youngest brother. <br> &hearts <br> Gender &starf Female &female <br> &hearts <br> Looks &starf <br> Hair &star Long, slightly curled at the ends (naturl curls), not well brushed (most of the time, the only reson she would brush her hair is because : 1. She is going some where fancy 2. She is going to try to impress someone she likes.), (hair color) dark brown. <br> Eyes &star Brown <br> &hearts <br> Crush &starf Erm... Gess, you might get it right. <br> &hearts <br> Likes &starf Animals, life, fun, freedom, and stuff! <br> &hearts <br> Dis Likes &starf Bullies, Meanness, Spiders, Milk, Marsh Mellows, alot of other stuff also! <br> &hearts <br> Group &starf The Frees!!!!!!!!! <br> &hearts <br> Other just ask!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <P> I shall be giving you more applications as the parts in your story come. Thank you. ~ A Friend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
{Lol Lin} <p> Name: Skylar Jones <p> Age: 14 <p> Gender: Female <p> Apperance: She has long wavy white hair the tips golden. She wears jeans and a white tee shirt with her brown boots. She always caries her bow with her. She also has a pet white wolf named Shard who always follows her . <p> Group: The Forces (The calm ones?) <p> Personality: she is calm and shy but is feirce
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The youngest is my baby. xD He's so great. <p> Application <br> Name :: Litha Granette [ Grah-nay. ] <br> Age :: 14 years old. <br> Gender :: &female <br> 'Group' :: The Frees. <br> Appearance :: Litha has wispy platinum-blond hair that barely reaches her waist. A careless line of emerald green streaks through it, along with a tawny feather pinned in her tresses. Her eyes are the same warm green, with copper-flecked irises. She stands at about 5'5, and is very lithe. <br> Persona :: Seems very happy-go-lucky and optimistic, but actually quite the solemn person. <br> Yaaaay. :3