A month and a half ago, Bennett Fisher ’66 and 1,000 other Americans travelled to Cowes, England, to participate in a regatta celebrating the 150th anniversary of the America’s Cup.
Fisher, 58, shared a yacht with John Rousmaniere, 57, and 14 others for the 53-mile race and spent several days in a cramped apartment with Rousmaniere, their wives and another couple, all from Greenwich, Conn. Rousmaniere likened the suite to a college dorm.
“In those circumstances, people become friendly very quickly,” Rousmaniere said.
The three families returned from Cowes having forged a close friendship and looking forward to many years of companionship.
But three weeks to the day later, Fisher was working in an upper floor of 1 World Trade Center when 2 World Trade Center was hit by a hijacked jetliner. Fisher, a senior vice president of the asset management firm Fiduciary Trust Co. International, fled his 97th-floor office before it was destroyed by the second plane and was last seen helping others escape in a stairwell on the 44th floor. He remains among the missing.
Born Nov. 25, 1942, Fisher left behind his wife of 32 years, Susan, and two children, James and Louisa. Fisher was also survived by his four sisters and two brothers.
“He was planning to retire at age 60,” said Terry Thatcher ’65, who accompanied the Fishers in Cowes. “But he did a lot of the things he wanted to do in life.”
Sailing was always a passion for Fisher. His father was also an avid sailor and Fisher grew up on boats. From building his first Blue Jay sailboat with his father to holding positions such as director and treasurer at Greenwich’s Indian Harbor Yacht Club, Fisher was a seaman to the core.
He co-owned a boat “appropriately named” Counterpoint, Susan Fisher said.
“It was a nice counterpoint to his professional life,” she added.
While competing in numerous transatlantic races and Newport to Bermuda races in his formative days, Fisher preferred to cruise around Long Island Sound with a few friends on his 38-foot yacht later in life.
But Fisher’s time at Yale was not as smooth as his time on Long Island Sound.
Spurred on by a family tradition of Yale graduates — both his father and grandfather were Bulldogs — Fisher applied, but was denied admission in the fall of 1960. After a year in the Marines, Fisher entered Yale in 1961 as an engineering major.
“Ben’s father was an engineer, so Ben thought he would be an engineer too,” Susan Fisher said. “But he and Yale realized that engineering was something that he was not going to excel at.”
After only a year in New Haven, Fisher left Yale to work at an investment-banking firm in New York. After a year-long hiatus, Fisher was back in Morse College — with a new major, economics.
Freshman-year roommate Richard Jackson ’65 remembered there were always two uniforms hanging, neatly pressed, in their closet. Fisher was a Marine reservist and Jackson enrolled in ROTC.
“It was ironic that I was the one who ended up going to Vietnam, but it was he who was a war casualty,” Jackson said.
Fisher began working for Fiduciary Trust in 1967 and never left. His 34 years of service for the company allowed him to rise to the rank of senior vice president in the asset management firm, where he oversaw individual and family portfolios. He was one of the last members of his firm to leave the twin towers when they were first attacked in 1993, since he was helping other employees evacuate.
A Greenwich native, Fisher had a lot of pride in his community.
“Greenwich is a town that has an awful lot of changes — rich people come and go — a town without a sense of stability and tradition,” Jackson said. “Ben Fisher exemplifies good citizenship and tradition in the community.”
One project Fisher was involved in was the acquisition of land for the Greenwich Land Trust.
“There is a beautiful, open field, with a spacious view of the rolling hills of western Connecticut,” Thatcher said. “He was instrumental in getting that conserved rather than having another big mansion being built.”
Many members of a large family, to which Fisher was related, owned the farm. Fisher persuaded many of those landholders to donate their interest in it, or sell it at a reduced cost, and found matching funds to buy it for the Greenwich trust, Thatcher said.
“We’re talking about well into seven figures,” Thatcher said.
Fisher also served on the board of directors of his high school alma mater, Pomfret School in Pomfret, Conn., a position he held for over 20 years.
“At Pomfret, he was very much a leader,” Jackson said. “He was one of the mainstays of the alumni there.”
Fisher also took time out to enrich his relationships at home.
“A year ago he drove west with [his son] Jamie to take him on a road trip out to California to live,” Susan Fisher said. “I think he learned more about rap music than he ever wanted to know, but he was the kind of guy who realized it was Jamie’s car and Jamie’s trip.”
Friends and family alike spoke to the integrity of their fallen friend.
“His word was his honor. In this era where a lot of people color the truth to make things a bit more palatable, to be politically correct, he told it like it was,” Thatcher said.
Since the tragedy, Susan Fisher has been amazed at the support from the community.
“I’m realizing now how many lives he touched,” she said. “For instance, he had this ordinary little Volvo that he painted grape purple, and everybody around here knew it. Through that car he made some friends at the train station and rode the train with them everyday. Only recently did I meet one of those men.”
Ben and Susan Fisher lived in the same house with a beautiful vegetable garden ever since they married three decades ago, Thatcher said.
“He just loved that place,” Thatcher said. “‘They’re going to carry me out of here feet first,’ Ben said once. Well, unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.”
A memorial service for Fisher will be today at 11 a.m. at St. Barnabus Episcopal Church, 954 Lake Ave., Greenwich. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Pomfret School, P.O. Box 128, Pomfret, CT 06258-0128 or Greenwich Land Trust, P.O. Box 1152, Greenwich, CT 06836-1152.