Larry Fisher

Larry Fisher, left, with children Doug Fisher and Kristin Coleman when they participated in Hempfield youth sports in the mid-1990s.

There are 24 seniors listed on the Hempfield football roster for the 2022 season. Of those, 17 played for the Hempfield Midget Football program in their youth.

That’s just a fraction of the players whose lives may have been impacted, albeit in small ways behind the scenes, by Larry Fisher.

Involved with the program since the early 1990s, Fisher also served as the commissioner of the Red Rose Midget Football program since 1996, the second-longest stint of any commissioner in the league’s 62-year history.

Fisher died Dec. 2 due to complications from heart surgery. He was 64.

“He gave so much with no strings attached,” Ken Gerber said of Fisher. “He would always ask what he could do for you. He gave his heart and soul.”

Gerber first met Fisher at Armstrong Flooring, where Fisher led a 45-year career. It’s there where Gerber, in the early 1990s, first asked Fisher for help with the Hempfield Area Midget Sports program. It was around the same time the Fishers’ two children were just starting to participate in youth sports.

Fisher spent the next few years coaching Hempfield youth football teams before taking over for Gerber as the director of the Hempfield Area Midget Sports program.

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Fisher was the man who got the field ready for game days, figured out game schedules, and coordinated the assigning of equipment for players and the reconditioning of the equipment at the end of each season, among many other responsibilities. For the players who sometimes needed rides home after practice, Fisher was their selfless chauffeur.

“It’s a running joke within our family that he’s the guy who may be a little bit of a blessing and a curse,” daughter Kristin Coleman said. “He took the leadership role and wanted to do everything. He packs the shed at the end of the season in a certain way. While appreciative for help, he turns you away because he wants to do it a certain way.”

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Coleman and her younger brother, Doug Fisher, are former Hempfield multisport student-athletes. Their dad never missed a game.

“Even if there was a coachable moment, he was always positive about it,” Coleman recalled. “If you got into a car crying, he was the one to pick you up, to encourage you to get out there and do better next time.”

A football and basketball player in his prep days at McCaskey in the 1970s, Fisher, often referred to by others as “Fish,” took over as the commissioner of the Red Rose Midget Football League in 1996. He was elected as Unit President for the United Steel Workers Union-Local 285 in April 2015 and reelected twice more in the years to follow. In other words, Fisher was a leader.

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“He was a leader by action, not by words,” Jeff Peters, Larry Fisher’s brother, said. “He just did it. He didn’t complain about it. He was a humble guy. A selfless guy. Always looking out for the kids.”

An avid golfer and lifelong New York Jets fan, Fisher was nearing retirement.

“We always joked he’d never retire because everyone he knows that retires dies,” Coleman said. “As morbid as that is, it’s fitting he didn’t get to retirement because that’s just his nature.”

A perfect example came in Fisher’s final days, when he was in the hospital preparing for heart surgery. By his side was the little black book he kept that contained information on Hempfield youth football.

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“He was telling me, ‘I still have three guys with outstanding equipment to collect on the Hempfield C and D teams,’ ” Peters recalled.

Since Fisher’s death, an outpouring of comments have been left on the Hempfield Youth Football Facebook page and on Fisher’s online obituary.

“So many have said Larry was their mentor,” Peters said. “Sure, it was all sports-related, but the relationships he had with people and what they got from him is the most valuable part.”

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday at Faith Bible Fellowship Church, 151 Donerville Road, Manor Township. Visitation will take place at 11 a.m. followed by the service at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in Fisher’s memory may be made to the American Heart Association or Hempfield Youth Sports.

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