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Keaton’s Mortuary

OBITUARY

Lavinia "Binny" McLean Fischer

May 6, 1937August 31, 2020

Binny Fischer was born Lavinia Rundle McLean in Danbury, Connecticut, to Clara Louise [Mallory] and Charles Stuart McLean, Jr. A child of New England, she grew up in the midwest, and spent most of her life on the West Coast. From her Connecticut childhood, she brought a love of nature and an enduring respect for family traditions and for propriety. From Ohio, lasting friendships, her physician husband, and the third of her four children (the other three were born in Oregon and in California). Where she got her uncanny ability at cards and other alleged “games of chance” -- who knows? But her Scrabble boards were things of wonder and beauty (and, for her opponents, despair).

Binny was the second child; she and her sister Polly remained best friends throughout their lives. In 1940, her mother and the girls moved to Louise's parents' rather grand home. Binny described running loose on over a hundred acres, being petted by her grandparents, and enjoying the run of the place (though there were expectations of “correct” behavior: formal dinners were formal indeed). Her childhood years at “Briar Ridge” rooted in her a love of nature and the natural world that guided her habits and activities throughout her life.

Polly & Binny visited their father “Mickey” McLean every summer into their college years. He was a harness racer and racehorse trainer, and from him Binny learned to drive a pair of horses — including how to back them up, a story she loved to tell.

Binny's mother remarried during the war, to Hugh Courtney Harris. When he returned from the service, the family moved to Larchmont, New York, and was augmented by a younger brother, Hugh, Jr. So close to NYC, Polly & Binny were often taken by their paternal grandmother, Teensie, to Broadway shows, FAO Schwartz, and the Russian Tea Room.

The family moved to Cincinnati in 1951, where Binny attended Wyoming High School and met her future husband, Chuck Fischer. She attended Smith College, and spent the year after graduation abroad, working in the Netherlands. She made life-long friends there, and used the the Dutch version of “bon appétit” (“Eet Smakelijk!”) at dinner ever afterwards.

Teaching second grade in Terrace Park, Ohio, didn’t blunt her love of travel: during her first summer vacation, she and a girl friend drove a Hillman-Minx convertible to Los Angeles, and then to San Francisco, where she met Chuck for a visit. They began dating, and got engaged after Binny visited Portland, where Chuck was a medical resident (at what is now Oregon Health & Science University). They married in Danbury, then settled in Portland while Chuck finished his residency. Faced with two toddlers, a very small apartment, and incessantly grey skies, the Fischers moved south to sunny Marin County. Chuck joined the San Rafael Medical Group, where his cousin, Dave Merten, practiced.

Shortly after the move south, Chuck was drafted into the Army as a medical officer. During his service, Binny and the children stayed near her sister’s family in Ohio; she delivered her third child while Chuck was in Viet Nam.

The fourth child arrived soon after their return to Marin and civilian life. Binny ran the home, volunteered in the schools, sang in the church choir, and partnered with Chuck in adventures large and small. There were week-long sailing and skiing trips with friends, and, as the kids grew up, more distant travels: they loved to explore new places. Their model for marriage was illustrated by how they raced their tiny sailboat: “Whoever was on the helm was captain.” Whoever was not was crew, and would immediately follow the helmsman’s orders — perhaps while offering contrasting advice. They had their own areas, but were a tight crew, on the boat and in life.

Binny was fascinated with birds. As her own kids left the nest, she put her energy and birding knowledge to use leading school trips at Audubon Canyon Ranch, where she worked as a docent for decades, and served on the board of directors; she participated in research on heron/egret rookeries; and always was trying to learn more. Binny and Chuck traveled with family to a variety of far-flung and exotic destinations (to Madagascar and then round-the-world in a single trip in 2018). Throughout their seventies, she and Chuck volunteered on medical trips to Guatemala, where she assisted the team in providing care to underserved communities; nearer home, she tutored generations of new readers at San Pedro Elementary School. She enjoyed serving as a deacon at her church and loved the fellowship of her many friends there. She and Chuck had a full social life, and thoroughly enjoyed organizing hiking and birding groups, dinner clubs, and book clubs with their many friends.

Binny loved family time above all else, especially with little ones around. No effort or distance was too great to bring the family together for trips or holidays. She was always up for adventure, especially when it included building memories with her family. She established countless traditions for the family for all seasons. She was almost always almost on-time, never leaving the house without going back at least once; but she strove to do the right thing at all times - delivering meals to friends, neighbors, and others in need, and writing every single thank you note.

Binny remained active during the 3 months after her cancer diagnosis. She was delighted with meals, calls, and cards from friends during her illness. She died peacefully at home, after a mercifully rapid decline, with all her children and one grandchild present.

She was predeceased by Charles “Chuck” Fischer, her beloved husband of 57 years, and brother Alec McLean. She is survived by siblings Polly Bassett, Cincinnati, OH; Hugh Harris (Diane), Elgin, AZ; Charles S. “Mike” McLean (Hilda), Goose Creek, SC; Julie Davis, Eighty-Four, PA; Jane Phillips (Dean), North Creek, NY; children, Courtney Fischer, San Rafael; Will Fischer (Janette), Santa Fe; Lauren Patterson (Dave), Ft. Collins; Doug Fischer (Robbie), Santa Barbara; grandchildren, Dalton and Cole Patterson, Kara Fischer, Jasper Fischer; and two great-grandchildren, Blakely Patterson and Beau Patterson.

An online memorial service will be held at 11am on Oct. 24. Details will be available at their church’s website: www.fpcsr.org.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent. Among Binny’s favorite charities were the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael, the Sierra Club, and Emily’s List.

Services

LIVESTREAM SERVICE
24 October

Virtual Memorial Service

First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael


Memories

Lavinia "Binny" McLean Fischer

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Doug Fischer

September 28, 2020

Binny and Chuck loved introducing all new members of the family to sailing. Young Kara here in 2002.

Doug Fischer

September 27, 2020

Halloween!

Doug Fischer

September 27, 2020

A beloved grandmother, Jama understood that one way into grandchildren's hearts (after all the snuggling, reading, adventuring, and other items were taken care of) was cookies. Young Dalton about 1998.

Doug Fischer

September 27, 2020

Binny and Chuck loved introducing all new members of the family to sailing. Young Kara here in 2002.

Doug Fischer

September 27, 2020

The sisters Polly and Binny (with Ken and Chuck) on the ice in Antarctica in 2004.

Doug Fischer

September 27, 2020

We met up in Bryce Canyon in 2013 on the way to a reunion on Lake Powell.

Doug Fischer

September 23, 2020

Mom loved music, singing with us all as children, in the choir, and round the campfire.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

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