A burning desire to give back: Max Fisher is 2020 citizen of the year

October 24, 2014 / MEND annual dinner dance at The Merian / Photo by Bob Laramie

There are those who will give you the shirt off their back without a second thought. Then  there’s Moorestown resident Max Fisher, who donated his kidney without a second thought.

It was simple, said Fisher: His daughter-in-law needed a kidney and he was a match. There was no moment of hesitation. It was just one of Fisher’s many acts of kindness; he has spent nearly his whole life giving back.

Every year, Moorestown’s service clubs recognize a resident who has demonstrated leadership and selflessness through volunteer work, and Fisher’s reputation for kindness and service earned him the 2020 Citizen of the Year title. 

Fisher moved to Moorestown at the age of 4 and went through its entire public school system. From the get-go, his parents were models for service. 

“My parents were very involved in the community; it pretty much comes naturally to me to be involved,” Fisher acknowledged. 

His father was a member of the Ys men, a Moorestown-based service club, and his mother was the first administrator of the Greenleaf Retirement Community. Both were active members of the First United Methodist Church of Moorestown. Fisher himself now boasts more than 60 years as a member of the FUMC, and he said the church is as much his family as his siblings. 

To date, Fisher and his wife, Beth, have participated in more mission trips with FUMC. It’s always been his firm belief that if you have the ability and wherewithal to give back, you should do so. 

His work with FUMC brought him to MEND (Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, Inc.) in 1998. The board of trustees was originally comprised of representatives from nine churches in town and members of FUMC asked Fisher to serve. 

He served during MEND’s biggest period of growth and watched as the organization went from a Moorestown-based provider of low- and moderate-income housing to a “regional player” all over South Jersey. 

While his longest affiliation with a Moorestown organization is with FUMC, the township fire department isn’t far behind. He joined in the fall of 1971. At the time, a friend’s father was involved in the department and convinced Fisher to join.

In his nearly 50 years with Relief Engine Company 312, Fisher has responded to more than 50 percent of the company’s calls — a feat he modestly shrugs off as part of the job.

He attributes that high response rate to a couple of different factors. Beth Fisher has always been supportive of her husband, so any time he needed to run out the door, she was there to take care of things at home. Owning his business also afforded him the flexibility to go when the department called.

Over the years, Fisher has served as a president, captain and battalion chief of the relief company, and today he sits on the board of fire commissioners. He said he’s stuck with it for so long because of fellowship within the department, whose work is both necessary and worthwhile.

“It think that being a volunteer firefighter is the purest form of community service,” Fisher noted. “You’re literally serving people that you don’t know.”

Chris Chesner, fire district administrator for Moorestown’s Fire District No. 1, is a lifelong friend of the Fisher family. He said whether it was with FUMC; the fire department; or through his former business, Taylor Rental, Fisher has consistently given freely and without expectation. 

“[His fellow firefighters] would certainly call him a dedicated member who truly has a love for the fire department,” Chesner said. 

When he learned he’d been selected as the 2020 citizen, Fisher felt deeply humbled and gratified by the recognition, but he gave some serious thought to whether he wanted to accept. Fisher, who seems reticent to talk about himself, said he accepted for one reason.  

“It gives me an opportunity to speak to people about the thing I love [and] the things I think we need to think about as a society,” Fisher maintained. “You’ll have to wait until February to find out what those are.” 

The Citizen of the Year dinner honoring Max Fisher will be held Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Moorestown Community House. Appetizers will start at 6:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7. Tickets are $55 per person and can be purchased at the Community House or from the Moorestown Rotary Breakfast Club, the Moorestown Rotary Lunch Club or the Moorestown Lions Club.