Ray Fisher was Fresno’s neighborhood pharmacist who built his own store and stayed open late and on holidays, often running it himself, to serve the community.
He was the man behind Ray Fisher Pharmacy, which opened in 1956 on Blackstone Avenue, north of Gettysburg, and which still bears his name more than two decades after he sold it to a pharmacist who once worked for him.
“He was really a servant to the community for a lot of years as well as the family,” said his daughter, Caroline Fisher.
Mr. Fisher, 91, died Jan. 12 after suffering a massive stroke. His wife and longtime love, Ruth Jean Fisher, who he met in the fourth grade, died the summer before.
“They were truly the essence of life partners,” Caroline Fisher said. “I guess he decided he was going to join her.”
He was really a servant to the community for a lot of years as well as the family.
Raymond Richard Fisher was born on Nov. 4, 1925, in Fresno and received his diploma a few months early from Roosevelt High School so he could join the U.S. Navy. Once enlisted, Mr. Fisher enrolled in a program that allowed him to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in only two years before officer’s school. He earned a degree in nautical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
Mr. Fisher eventually would serve on the USS Benevolence, a hospital ship, in the South Pacific, where he witnessed the atom bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.
After the Navy, Mr. Fisher went to pharmacy school at the University of Southern California, then returned to Fresno where he worked at Hood’s Pharmacy before opening his own store. “He was very big on being your own business person,” Caroline Fisher said. “That’s where you can have your most impact and contribute the most.”
Ray Fisher Pharmacy operated out of a small storefront in what was the Paradise Shopping Center for a couple years while Mr. Fisher built a building with his own hands. He developed a love of construction from his contractor father, Robert Raymond Fisher of Truitt, Shields and Fisher, and was always building things, said his son, Randy. Mr. Fisher also built the Fresno home he shared with his wife for more than 60 years.
The pharmacy became known as one of the few places residents could go to fill a prescription up to midnight or on holidays. He even took calls between midnight and 9 a.m. It was a service that didn’t make much money, but was needed, Mr. Fisher told a Bee reporter in 1979.
His employees were like family. Mr. Fisher paid college tuition for his workers who committed to working on his team for at least four years. He worked holidays so his employees didn’t have to, and when the late nights started to get risky – the pharmacy was held up few times – Mr. Fisher took the shifts to keep his employees safe. He ended up getting shot in the stomach during one of those hold-ups on Easter night in 1977.
Toward the latter half of Mr. Fisher’s career, he hired employees to run the store while he operated the pharmacy at Sierra Hospital, which no longer exists, Randy Fisher said.
Mr. Fisher retired in 1988 and sold the business to Nancy Asai, a pharmacist who worked for him, and her husband, Randy Asai. The Asais would later add medical equipment and supplies to the business and moved it from the original location.
During the first few years of the young couple’s ownership, Mr. Fisher would stop by to help when needed, said Randy Asai. He was a regular visitor and “we supplied their medications.”
He was a top-notch kind of guy. We’d sit and talk about business. He was always a very good mentor.
Randy Asai, owner, Ray Fisher Pharmacy Medical Supplies
“He was a top-notch kind of guy,” Asai said. “We’d sit and talk about business. He was always a very good mentor. It was always a good experience to be involved with Ray.”
When not working, Mr. Fisher liked to tinker with projects around the house or the Bass Lake cabin he owned. He liked to read “Aviation Weekly” magazine. The Fishers had season tickets to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater and the Fresno Philharmonic and liked to participate in lectures at Fresno State.
In retirement, Mr. Fisher frequently would visit Fresno Ag Hardware store, where he bought many tools over the years for all his tinkering. A memorial service is planned at the store for close family and friends.
“For me, what impacted me greatly growing up and observing him was his incredible work ethic,” Caroline Fisher said. “Being a young kid, I remember thinking, wow, he worked very hard. It was so clear to me that he worked harder than anyone else I observed.”
Born: Nov. 4, 1925
Died: Jan. 12, 2017
Occupation: Pharmacist and founder of Ray Fisher Pharmacy
Survivors: Son, Randy; daughter, Caroline
Contributions: Fresno State Foundation/Anne Fisher or Whitney Fisher Scholarship, CSU Fresno, College of Arts and Humanities, Attention Becky Brown, 2380 E. Keats Ave., Fresno, 93740.