FOR THE AGES
Max M. Fisher, 1908-2005
William and Mollie
Fisher with their two
oldest children, Gail
and Max, 1912
Max Fisher's sisters share childhood memories of family devotion.
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
any knew Max Fisher as a
visionary, a Jewish and civic
leader, a political adviser and
But to Anne Rose of West Bloomfield he
was "just a great guy — a wonderful per-
son who was always very good to me," she
said. "Max was my big brother."
Rose said Max — who was also the eld-
est sibling of Dorothy Tessler of Bloomfield
Hills and the late Gail Fisher Ross — "was
the person I always looked up to."
"We all did," added Tessler. "In our family,
he was the king — the only boy in a family
of three girls." .
And that meant he could get away with
anything when it came to his sisters.
"When Max and Gail took piano lessons
together, he used to tell her that only she
had to practice, but he didn't because he
was two years older — so he was already
better at the piano," said Tessler, the
youngest of the Fisher children and 12
years Max's junior. "And Gail believed him."
Tessler remembers being hired by her big
brother to iron his shirts.
"He paid me 10 cents for each one," she
said. "And he loved coconut, so I used to
bake him coconut cakes."
The four siblings are the children of Velvil
and Malka (Brody) Fisch, immigrants from
White Russia. In June 1906, Velvil landed in
New York City, settled in Pittsburgh,
changed his name to William Fisher and
became a traveling peddler. A year later, he
had enough money to send for Malka, who
then became Mollie.
Their son, Max, was born in Pittsburgh,
but spent part of his school years in Salem,
"It was such a small town, and there
were very few Jewish kids there," said
Rose. "In fact, there were only two other
Jewish boys in school with Max. His friends
used to tease him and call him 'rabbi. -
Max Fisher with his three sisters, the late Gail Fisher Ross, Anne Rose and Dorothy Tessler,
Both women remember their brother as a
"He was always active in different groups
in high school," Rose said. But the one thing
she remembers most fondly about her
brother's school career was being able to
watch the athletic Max play football.
"I was only 7 and we had moved to
Cleveland," she said. "I remember being
very proud to watch him play."
Max went on to attend Ohio State
University on a football scholarship.
"While Max was in college, every time he
came home it was a big deal," Tessler said.
"Our family was always very close. We
always had Friday night dinners together at
She also always saw in her brother bits of
"I think of Max as emulating both of them
in many ways," Tessler said. "He was won-
derful like my mother. And, like my father,
he was so good with numbers and figures.
He was like my father — but with an edu-
Even as the Fisher children started their
own families, they remained near one
another, each raising their children in the
"We are a very close family," Tessler said.
"We still always get together on birthdays
and holidays and for special occasions."
Not at all surprised about the successes
and accomplishments of her brother, Tessler
said, "It is amazing to think about all the
wonderful things he did. But there was
always something within him — a passion
about the things he wanted to do."
In adulthood, she thought of him as "a
person who was always so busy taking care
of the world. But I knew I could always go to
him and he would be there," she said. IVF
"D?: Martin Luther King Jr. said that
service is the rent we pay for the space we
occupy. Max served. He earned his keep
on this side. From 1967, Max decided to
make this city what he always wanted it
to be. Instead of talking about it, he did
it. We love him."
— Detroit Mayor