My Tribute to the Enormous Generosity of Linda Fisher

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Janet Sanders

Linda Fisher in Albany, New York.

(WOMENSENEWS)— Last night was an extraordinarily special evening for me. Women’s eNews held its annual gala, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, the last one I will host, at one of the fanciest hotels in New York City.

The house was full of love, friendship and kisses. Many 21 Leaders from previous years returned to wish me well as I pivot to becoming a full-time reporter and writer for Women’s eNews.

All who attended were women’s rights activists one way or another; people who give time, energy, commitment and even a check to support women’s worldwide insistence on attaining our full human rights. Many were close friends. I can’t thank them enough.

One friend was not able to be there though. Linda Ruth Fisher, 73, of Albany, New York, died on April 20 after a long illness.

An email she sent me last year at this time illustrates her optimism and humor and indicates one reason I treasured her as a friend. It included the photo above, taken by her companion Janet Sanders.

“How am I looking: See for yourself in the attached photo, which Janet took this morning–two days after Nadine (my personal nurse and barber) shaved my head because the chemo finally worked,” Linda wrote.

“Do not mistake me for the ‘Happy Monk’ statue you might see in some Chinese restaurants, Janet says. For example: I am thinner than I was, I have better teeth, I am younger; and I am alive and happy and on my way to recovery, and I have a much better smile than the Happy Monk. And I don’t have a triple chin any more.  And my hair will grow back.”

Fundraising

I am often asked whether I get tired of fundraising. I do not. I have had the honor and the privilege to meet some of the world’s most passionate, kind, funny, politically savvy and generous women and men, such as Linda. This is my expression of deepest gratitude to Linda and all those who, like her, give in ways both large and small and use their time on this earth to advance the rights of women and girls.

I met Linda in 2006 at an Albany awards luncheon at which I was honored as the Media Person of the Year by the New York State Women’s Press Club.

After my remarks that included an ask for financial support, a member with a bit of girth and clearly in her 60s, came up to me and said, “I can help you.”

She followed up with a call and told me to apply for a grant from the Charles Lawrence Keith and Clara Miller Foundation, founded by a progressive who had a golden touch with New York City real estate and his spouse, Clara Miller. Linda did not mention then—nor did she ever—that she was president of the foundation. She just told me to apply in a tone of voice laced with care and command.

Thus began a 10-year friendship and collaboration and my initiation into one of the many quiet networks of women—and some men—who use whatever leverage and resources they have to advance women’s rights.

Women’s eNews received our first of annual grants–$5,000 at first and gradually increasing–from the foundation to support a marketing intern.

A Great Friend

I, meanwhile, made a great friend.

Where I vacation requires me to drive through Albany and we developed a habit of having lunch at the Wolfe Road diner, just off the highway. (It too is now gone.)

Two grandchildren were often with me and, after sizing up their health and their attitudes, Linda let me know that they were fine grandchildren indeed.

Then we talked politics. She had served as executive deputy commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration and had held various posts in the administration of Gov. Mario Cuomo; the father of the state’s current governor. Her networks were still very active and kept her well informed of the best gossip.

Our next subject was how to raise more money for Women’s eNews. She followed up by nominating me for a big prize and emailing me suggestions of what else to try.

By coincidence, our first program officer at W.K. Kellogg Foundation, who would decide whether to approve our first grant application in 2009, was once her colleague, Barbara J. Sabol, the former commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration.

Barbara retired from Kellogg shortly after she OK’d our grant. Yet, she too stayed connected with her network and whenever Linda and I met, she would ask about the Kellogg grant.

I have no idea if Barbara in turn was in touch with her former colleagues to put in a good word, but it was so comforting to think that Women’s eNews had our first program officer still rooting for us.

I did not communicate directly with Barbara after her retirement to Kansas, until she traveled to Albany to visit Linda on April 5. Linda called me and put Barbara on the phone. I seized the moment to tell Barbara all we had accomplished with the Kellogg grants and thanked her profusely.

When Linda came back on, she asked me how I thought Hillary Clinton was doing. She wanted to live, she said, to see the first woman elected as president of the United States.

I assured her she would.

Thank you Linda, and all the women and men like Linda, for caring up to the end that women push ahead and for doing all they can to see that it happens.

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