Fisher Industries' Gene Fisher was a Dickinson ‘pillar’
The community of Dickinson and Fisher Industries lost a leader and friend Tuesday with the death of Gene Fisher. He was 84.
Born Dec. 26, 1928, in Dickinson, Fisher became involved in the sand and gravel industry at a young age, established his own business and grew it into a nationally known company for crushing operations and other aspects of land development including concrete, asphalt, drilling and blasting.
Fisher is remembered for his character — honesty, respect and his emphasis of those traits in others.
Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said he remembers Fisher for two things — the good jobs and wealth he brought to the local economy with his business, and how he shared his and the company’s wealth through philanthropy.
Fisher donated to many of the well-known institutions in town, including the Biesiot Activities Center and Fisher Field at Dickinson State University.
His hard work ethic — reflected in the company motto, “We like the tough jobs” — came out of passion for the industry that kept him involved in operations after son, Tommy, took over and even in Gene Fisher’s final days.
He would routinely check in, and with his intimate knowledge of crushing operations, often had advice for troubleshooting.
“Till Tuesday even he still had a voice in things happening,” said Curt Kittelson, sales manager for Fisher’s General Steel and Supply Company.
Fisher’s last trip out of the house was to a steel manufacturing site.
“Even though he wasn’t feeling well,” Tommy Fisher remembered, “the second he got onto a job site or a pit, all the sickness and everything went away and he was just back into himself.”
Notorious work ethic, honest When Gene Fisher would get teased for how hard he worked, he had a response remembered by many.
“You only work half-days,” he would say. “You just pick which 12 hours.”
Tommy Fisher said growing up, there was only one act he’d get in serious trouble for — the one thing his father would not tolerate.
“The only time I ever remember being spanked was if I got caught lying,” he said.
As business practices became more complex, contracts became longer for Fisher Industries.
But it was still simple for Gene Fisher, who would tell Tommy, “They can be as big as you want but the bottom line is if you’re still dealing with someone who’s not trustworthy, they’re gonna find a way around it.”
Tommy Fisher said friends and family shared stories of his father’s character at a well-attended memorial Friday in Arizona, where Gene Fisher moved in the mid-2000s.
From a farm to nationwide What’s now a national multi-industry company began in 1952 on a farm 2 miles out of town.
Fisher’s father ran what was then just Fisher Sand & Gravel Co.
Now, the company is comprised of more than 800 employees with offices in Dickinson, Tempe, Ariz., and six other locations in the western United States.
The company expanded off the farm to the Dickinson office in 1972, and Tommy Fisher took over the company and moved to Arizona in the 1990s, which led to major expansion of operations.
But Gene Fisher’s reach didn’t end at Fisher Industries.
Whether with money or just advice, Fisher helped out many current businesses of Dickinson get their start, including Northwest Tire.
Al Wald of Northwest Tire remembers his first interaction with Fisher like it was yesterday.
When he was looking to get Northwest Tire started in the late ‘70s, Wald took an interest in some land Fisher owned. When he first approached Fisher about buying it, the man was busy, and asked to meet at the Queen City Club later that night.
There, they made what Wald said was one of many handshake contracts Fisher had in his life.
“We made a contract on a napkin,” Wald said. “… and that’s the only contract there ever was.”
When the first payment came due, Wald sent a check but noticed months later that it hadn’t been cashed. Worried it was lost in the mail, he rushed to check with Fisher, who told him he received it but hadn’t cashed it because he thought Wald might be short.
“That’s how Gene was,” Wald said, “He always wanted to help people out.”
“We lost a good businessman, a pillar.”
When the Elks Lodge in Dickinson ran into money troubles, Fisher helped them out and played a role in keeping the club going.
He also helped with the establishment Anfinson’s hardware (now Kolling and Kolling) and bring a furniture store that’s now I. Keating to town, said Flo Friedt, vice president of Fisher’s General Steel and Supply Company.
Coming home On Saturday, Tommy Fisher loaded his dad into a Fisher Industries truck for a last drive around the company’s gravel pits.
They’ll end up in Dickinson, for a viewing 6-8 p.m. Friday at Ladbury Funeral Service, and a funeral at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church.
Tommy Fisher said his dad always wanted to make another round of the company’s sites, which will end at the Dickinson office.
“He’s on his way home.”