Jack E. Fischer
Passed away on February 8, 2013
Jack Fischer, who spent 20 years at the Mercury News as a local news reporter, investigative writer and visual arts critic, died Friday at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View after a two-year fight with lung cancer. A voracious reader, a lover of politics and Steely Dan, a family man who joined a college class on feminism because he had his eye on the woman who later became his wife, Fischer from 1986 through 2006 wrote thousands of news stories for the Mercury News. His topics ranged from an award-winning 1991 series on guard brutality against inmates at the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections to feature stories on the reopening of San Francisco's de Young Museum and downtown San Jose's Green Rice Art Gallery, a small space exhibiting contemporary art by local Vietnamese artists. "I've worked with several art critics, including some fairly respected hotshots at the L.A. Times," said Tony Lioce, a former Mercury News assistant features editor who worked closely with Fischer, "and, of them all, none would get as excited, touched, moved or thrilled as Jack, whenever he'd find something worthy in a gallery or museum. He saw the task of conveying that pure joy as a sacred trust." A man with a big heart and a rapier wit, whose emails often would leave colleagues in stitches, Fischer, who recently turned 59, was born in Hoboken, N.J., and raised by his mother Tilba Fischer, a high school French teacher. It was at Park College in Parkville, Missouri, that he joined that feminism class and met wife-to-be Joycellen Floyd, now a family medicine physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "He had beautiful hair and a long pony tail," she remembered, "and we would take long walks along the river, and he would talk about all these philosophers. I pretended to be interested in philosophy, but mostly I was interested in Jack." She and Fischer maintained a long distance romance, as he wound up transferring to the University of Kansas, graduating with a journalism degree in 1976. His first newspaper job was at the Paterson (N.J.) News, where he was fired for trying to organize a union. He moved to the States News Service in Washington, D.C., then the Dallas (Texas) Times Herald, before being hired by the Mercury News in 1986. He and Floyd married that year and had three children: Molly, 26, a writer in New York; John, 23, a student at Sonoma State University; and Joey, 17, a junior at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. Fischer, raised by an Italian mother who loved to cook, prepared most of the family's meals: "I remember my high school best friend coming over and being sort of shocked and amazed," daughter Molly said, "when my father special-ordered goose fat in order to make this bistro chicken we found in a Dean & DeLuca cookbook." She credits him with teaching her that there's "excitement in life, when you keep learning all the time." Fischer carried that maxim into his final job, from 2006 until this week, as communications officer for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park. Writing about grant recipients in the arts, education and other fields, Fischer "disarmed people," said his boss, Eric Brown. "He used to say that his job was to play the fool, to ask the stupid questions that everybody was afraid to ask, like, 'What is it that you do, anyway?' Or, 'Why does that matter?' The simple things that will reveal the most interesting, useful answers." When Fischer was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2011, he didn't ask, "Why me?" "He was a mensch," said Scott Willis, former Mercury News editorial cartoonist and Fischer's best friend. "Anyone who had Jack as a friend felt very lucky." Larry Slonaker, a former Mercury News reporter and also a close friend, recently received this email from Fischer, who was in the midst of yet another round of radiation: "We'll see how it goes. Meantime, though, I've figured out that if I strap slabs of bacon over my ears, I can have breakfast half-done before I leave the clinic." "He was just good," said Floyd, his wife, recalling Fischer's ambulance ride the other night from the Palo Alto Medical Clinic to the hospital in Mountain View. "He was on oxygen, and he was so uncomfortable, and they were giving him morphine, trying to settle him down. And the first thing he said was, 'I forgot to thank everybody.'" Funeral arrangements were not available at press time.
Jack Fischer Resident of San Jose Jan. 9, 1954-Feb. 8, 2013 Jack was a longtime journalist who spent 20 years at the Mercury News as a local news reporter, investigative writer and visual arts critic, and the last six years as the communications officer for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Jack is survived by his wife, Joycellen Floyd; daughter Molly; and sons John and Joey. The family plans a wake at their home on Saturday. Contact the funeral home for details. Donations may be made to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Oncology Program in memory of Jack Fischer: PAMF Department of Philanthropy, 795 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301.
Jack E. Fischer
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October 30, 2017
I just happened to run across Jack's obituary, and was saddened to see it. Jack and I traced locations together. Both Easterners, we got to know each other in the journalism program at the University of Kansas. I think we felt ourselves to be strangers in a strange land there in the Midwest. In the early '80s I was surprised to run across Jack in D.C., he at States News Service and I as a press secretary for a U.S. senator. Finally, we both ended up in the Bay Area as long-time residents. Unfortunately I didn't know Jack was in the South Bay all this time. I always admired Jack's enthusiasm, positive outlook, and persistence. I wish I had stayed in closer touch, but am glad we were able to commune during out "formative years" at KU.
March 3, 2013
I knew Jack & his family from when his children attended the same preschool as mine, and later, the same elementary school as one of my children was at for two years - though they were never in the same class. I always felt drawn to Jack and his wife, and wished I could have gotten to know them better. I loved his art exhibit reviews in the Merc, and when he disappeared from the Merc's pages (as part of one of their many cutbacks, I assume) I always worried about what had become of him. It's great to know now that he landed another job that sounds like a great fit for him, and much deserved. I was so sad to read of his death, leaving children close in age to mine, and his beautiful wife, bereft. He seemed like such a great guy.
February 16, 2013
Jack was a great guy, funny, interesting,
a person who would listen. He had a great way with semantics.
He will be missed by all who knew him
February 16, 2013
Dear Joyce, Joey, Molly & John:
We have fond memories of Jack and your family while at W. Open. Please know you are in our thoughts and prayers. May you find comfort in your loving memories.
Bunny, Harry, Ally and Cole Lockwood
February 16, 2013
Jack was just a delight in every way and a fine journalist. My heart goes out to you. I was sad when he left the paper and I'm sad now. But he did great work all around -- as a writer and a kind human being.
February 15, 2013
So sorry for your loss. Jack seemed to be always smiling in person, and so witty to read. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.
February 15, 2013
I never knew Jack, but I've known his best friend, Scott Willis, for the past 36 years, and THAT alone speaks volumes about Jack's personality and character.
February 14, 2013
Dear Joyce, Molly, John, and Joey,
We are so blessed to have known Jack and cherish many fond memories of carpooling, donut day, soccer, and more. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
All our love,
February 13, 2013
Dear Dr. Floyd, Molly, John and Joey,
We are so sorry for your loss. Jack was an incredible Man and I know that though you are in a hard place right now, His love and memories will be in your heart forever. May God give you strength and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Please find comfort in knowing that we are praying daily for you.
Much Love, Prayers and Blessings,
Mike and Cindy Kolander
February 13, 2013
Dearest Joyce, Molly, John, and Joey,
Sending you love, strength, and a healing comfort in all of your memories of your truly remarkable husband and father. We know that Jack was an extraordinary human being and that his spirit, love, kindness, humor, and strength remain with you forever.