Humorist and philanthropist Allan Fisher of Visalia dies

Visalia resident Allan D. Fisher, 80, philanthropist, businessman and author of joke books, died Monday of heart failure following a recent fall.

He died at Kaweah Delta Medical Center surrounded by family.

Mr. Fisher moved to Visalia from the Bay Area in 1994 and made friends right away, said Fred LoBue✔, a citrus grower and packer.

“He was a very sharp, self-made businessman,” LoBue said. “He was funny and fun to be around.”

Mr. Fisher wrote three joke books aimed at public speakers and two cookbooks interspersed with jokes.

For example, “If you’re being run out of town, get out in front and make it look like a parade.”

On a road trip to Lake Tahoe, “he’d test the jokes on me to see how I laughed, and grade them,” LoBue said.

His sense of humor rarely left him. As he recuperated at home, his granddaughter asked what he needed. “He said, ‘bring me a martini and my dog,’ ” LoBue said.

Mr. Fisher was born in San Jose and had one sister and two brothers. His father was a Methodist minister.

He received a bachelor of science degree in business from Fairleigh Dickinson University, did graduate work at San Jose State University, and in 1964 started Western Medical Enterprises, which owned skilled nursing facilities.

He sold the company and served as CEO of ARA Health Group and subsidiaries, which oversaw 32,000 nursing home beds. He also founded Mission Valley Bancorp, which owned three banks in the East Bay.

In 1981, he started a health care consulting business. In 1989, he founded Mission Care Group, which owns skilled nursing facilities in Visalia, Hanford and Tulare.

Mr. Fisher was a member of the national Boy Scouts of America advisory board from 1991 to 2009, was president of the Sequoia Council for two years and received the Silver Buffalo award in 1998.

He was also active with his wife, Sharon, in fundraising for the Tulare County Symphony.

Mr. Fisher served on the board of directors of Pro-Youth/Heart, a Visalia-based after-school program, said Laurie Isham, retired executive director.

“He was just phenomenal,” Isham said. “He was a wonderful mentor, coach and role model. He was just so instrumental in our growing years.”

Mr. Fisher donated Thanksgiving turkeys, shoes and winter coats to students at Union School and later Annie R. Mitchell School, she said.

He served on the board of Rotary Foundation of Visalia, which donates to community causes and charities, and donated funds to the foundation.

Rocky Pipkin, Rotary Club of Visalia president, said he and others in business would seek Mr. Fisher’s advice.

“He had a heart of gold,” Pipkin said. “Al was your go-to guy if you had any problems.”