|Zachary Fisher (1910-1999)
Elizabeth M. Fisher (1913-2004)
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum was founded by New York real estate icon and philanthropist Zachary Fisher and his wife Elizabeth. Zachary and Elizabeth both believed strongly in our nation’s responsibility to honor the men and women who served in the armed forces, and their families. That belief led to the founding of this Museum and to many other important efforts to serve the military and veterans community.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Zachary began working in construction at the age of 16. Shortly thereafter, he and his brothers, Martin and Larry, joined forces to form Fisher Brothers, which has grown into one of the real estate industry's premier residential and commercial developers, owning more than five million square feet of office space.
From the earliest days of his construction career, Zachary was a strong supporter of the U.S. Armed Forces. Prevented from active service in World War II due to a leg injury, Mr. Fisher drew on his building skills to assist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the construction of coastal fortifications. His patronage of the Armed Forces became an ongoing concern from that time, evolving to occupy increasing amounts of his energies.
During World War II, Elizabeth served in the USO, entertaining over 157,000 troops overseas with the Ziegfield Follies. She also volunteered to visit American troops who were hospitalized, and spent many hours at their bedsides. She had a significant early involvement in the Veterans Bedside Network, a support organization for injured veterans. She and Zachary married in 1943.
In the 1970s, the Fishers’ commitment to both the Armed Forces and other philanthropic causes intensified still further through their leadership role in a number of major projects.
In 1978, they founded the Intrepid Museum Foundation to save the historic and battle-scarred aircraft carrier Intrepid from the scrap yard. Four years of involvement with the Foundation resulted in his spearheading the opening of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in 1982.
Also in 1982, Zachary and Elizabeth established the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation. Through this Foundation, they made significant contributions of between $10,000 and $25,000 to the families of military personnel lost in performance of their duty, beginning with the victims of the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. The Fishers made hundreds of similar contributions in the years until their passing. These efforts continue through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which was established after Zachary’s passing to continue his and Elizabeth’s good works.
The Fishers made similar donations to the families of New York City firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. The Armed Services Foundation also provided scholarship funds to active and former service members and their families.
In 1990, Zachary and Elizabeth began the Fisher House program, dedicating more than $20 million to the construction of comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel. Fisher Houses operate at military bases and Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers throughout the nation. More than 11,000 families are served by Fisher Houses every year. Since the program's inception, more than 120,000 families have stayed in Fisher Houses, saving them an estimated $100 million annually in lodging and transportation costs. The Fisher House program continues today, with over 40 houses open and more planned and under construction.
In 1994, Mr. Fisher, together with David Rockefeller, established the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, which funds Alzheimer's disease research with the goal of finding a cure for this devastating disease. The Foundation operates the nation's largest and most modern Alzheimer's research laboratory, housed at The Rockefeller University in New York City.
In 1998, Zachary received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in honor of his wide-ranging contributions on behalf of the young men and women in the US Armed Forces. He also received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Horatio Alger Award, the President's Volunteer Action Award, the Senior Civilian Award from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, and the top civilian awards from each branch of the military. In December 1999, the United States Congress conferred upon Zachary the title of "Honorary Veteran of the United States," only the second American to receive such recognition (Bob Hope was the first).
Separately, Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as Margaret Thatcher and the late Yitzhak Rabin, recognized Mr. Fisher for his support of charitable organizations throughout the United States. Mr. Fisher's devotion to his country can be summed up in the inscription on the Presidential Plaque presented to him by President Reagan: "To the tireless, dedicated work of many Americans, the Intrepid will serve as an inspiration. One man deserves special tribute Zachary Fisher, a patriotic American who never forgot and cares so much."