Verna Fischer: ‘I was a Jack of all monkeybusiness’Verna Josephine Fischer — Jo to her friends — has developed a reputation around Trinity Care Center for making people laugh. It’s a reputation that seems to have followed her through much of her life. When she was young, she said, some people didn’t think she would amount to much because she didn’t take things seriously. She has even done a little stand-up comedy in her life.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Verna Josephine Fischer — Jo to her friends — has developed a reputation around Trinity Care Center for making people laugh. It’s a reputation that seems to have followed her through much of her life. When she was young, she said, some people didn’t think she would amount to much because she didn’t take things seriously. She has even done a little stand-up comedy in her life.
A word of warning, though, her material isn’t always for the faint of heart.
“It depends on the situation whether I use clean jokes or dirty ones,” Fischer said. “I know plenty of both.”
In 92 years, Fischer has had plenty of time and plenty of opportunity to gather jokes fit for all audiences. Born in 1918 she has lived all over the country, in cities big and small. She’s served in the Army. She’s been a teacher and a performer, a wife and a mother.
Fischer was born in a tiny mountain town in West Virginia. Her father was a coal miner and owned the only restaurant in town. Once or twice a year he would order a shipment of oysters and hold oyster fries that brought people to town from miles around. Her mother was a school teacher who had a photographic memory, and would quote passages of classic literature while her children did the dishes.
“She could sit down and she would quote you the Bible,” Fischer said. “She could quote the whole Bible and not miss a thee or a thou.”
Fischer, whose siblings were all much older than her, didn’t stay in that town for long, though. She was only about a year old when her family moved, eventually landing in Morgantown, home of the University of West Virginia. That’s where Fischer spent most of her youth. She attended the University to study English and music.
She interrupted her studies when the United States entered World War II. Like many young people at the time, she headed for a recruitment center in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Nobody’s going to drop the bomb on my country,” Fischer said.
Fischer fit well in the Army, and she advanced quickly. She did bookkeeping, worked in the post office, even served as a drill Sergeant, leading other women on long hikes. She was in the best shape of her life, she said. And she was proving to all of those people who thought she didn’t take life seriously enough that she could make a contribution.
Fischer served on an honor guard for then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he visited the base where she was stationed. She shook his hand.
Fischer went back to college after her time in the Army. That’s where she met her husband, Vernon. He was studying horticulture, and she offered him a chance to check out the plant life at her family’s home. The specific line, as she recalls it, is “Would you like to come over and do your homework on my limbs?”
He accepted, and she cooked him dinner. He helped stir the meatballs and broke them into smaller pieces. That was a no-no, but Fischer liked him anyway. They were married less than three months later.
Vernon taught for five years at the University of Delaware, and Verna taught English in an Italian neighborhood, an experience she said was the best job she ever had.
“I had children that spoke Italian. I had children who spoke Hebrew. I had to manage to get back and forth between many languages.”
Fischer spent much of her life balancing various skills. She describes herself as a “Jack of all monkeybusiness.”
Verna and Vernon moved to California after when he got a job there, and they eventually settled in Minnesota when Vernon found work here.
“He had the science and I had the big mouth,” Fischer said.
The couple raised two sons and a daughter and Fischer continued to teach English and music. She spent 50 years directing church choirs.
Fischer moved recently from the Trinity Terrace apartments to Trinity Care Center. Her husband died a year ago Saturday.
“Everybody liked him,” Fischer said. “Especially me.”