JOHNSON CITY - Dr. Charles Abraham Fish, 78, of Johnson City, died January 24, 2021 at his residence.
Charles was a native of Cincinnati, OH and was a son of the late Joseph and Esther Fish. He grew up with his siblings in a home dedicated to Judaism and the Jewish people. His family was a cornerstone of the Jewish community in Cincinnati.
Charles attended Walnut Hills High School and University of Cincinnati for his undergraduate studies and the College of Medicine. He could be found putting in hours of studying at the library or shooting basketball hoops with friends and on occasion with Cincinnati Bearcat great Oscar Robertson. Charles was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Phi Lambda Upsilon honorary societies.
In 1964 he married Cincinnati native Sandra Deskins. Sandra introduced Charles to her love of dogs forever ensuring that their home would be filled with four legged animals they adored. They forged a loving and committed union to one another prioritizing love of family, cultivating a strong Jewish identity for their children, and a deep sense of connection to community and serving others.
Dr. Fish held his pediatric internship at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He served as a Captain in the United States Army from 1969-1973, completing his pediatric residency at Brooke General Hospital in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Charles was drawn to the practice of pediatrics as he appreciated the diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. When a baby or child would have a medical issue that they were unable to explain, Dr. Fish applied his mathematical and problem solving skills to the situation. His deductive reasoning and analytical approach not only resulted in resolving many medical concerns but he alleviated parents’ deep worries and anxieties. When new mothers would call him with distress in their voices he would patiently listen and calmly walk them through the necessary steps to ensure the best possible outcome for their babies. No matter was too small for him and he treated each family with the utmost respect and concern. He valued the patient and parent interactions, and the smiles of babies. His calm demeanor, honest and open communication, and compassionate warmth put his patients at ease.
Charles was encouraged by his colleague, Dr. Boyce Berry, to move to Johnson City as there was opportunity to grow and advance the medical care in the area. Dr. Fish co-founded Johnson City Pediatrics alongside Dr. Berry. Together they co-initiated the neonatal intensive care unit at Johnson City Memorial Hospital. He worked with the Johnson City Medical Center to ensure the establishment of the neonatal intensive care unit and later developed the pediatric intensive care unit in which he served as the director of the unit from its inception for the following eight years. Dr. Fish was a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
Dr. Fish was a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and several other professional medical societies. Charles was extremely active in the medical community and held positions on the executive committee of the Johnson City Medical Center Hospital and was chairman of the department of pediatrics at Johnson City Medical Center. For years, Dr. Fish was a deeply engaged member of the board of directors of Johnson City Medical Center. Charles studied pediatric literature, spent many hours in the hospitals and did something he loved for many years. His endeavors prevented illness and healed many from significant diseases.
Charles was passionate about Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish people. His greatest concern about moving to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains was how to create and ensure the existence of a vibrant Jewish community for his family and the surrounding Jewish population in the Tri-Cities. His participation in the Jewish community at B’nai Sholom Congregation provided an anchor for him, his family, and many individuals in the area. Dr. Fish was a committed lay leader for B’nai Sholom; a lifetime member of the congregation; and active on multiple committees while serving in leadership positions. He helped select Rabbis and Cantors for the community’s High Holiday services interviewing them via long distance telephone calls as they chanted Jewish liturgy over hundreds of miles away. He ensured that the Jewish community had access to practice Jewish lifecycle events in accordance with Jewish legal and ritual customs. Charles’s passion for the Jewish community was deep and he had an unwavering sense of responsibility to B’nai Sholom.
When Dr. Fish was not practicing medicine or at the synagogue he could be found cycling. He loved the open road and cycling was one of his passions. He rode Century rides to raise money for pediatric diabetes. He dissected the Tour de France and talked with admiration about the cyclists’ strength, grit and perseverance, all qualities he exhibited himself in various domains.
Charles was a devoted husband to wife, Sandra Fish, and the two were married for 56 years. He was an adoring and caring father to children: daughter, Deborah Fish; son, Michael Fish (Devora Fish); daughter, Rachel Fish (Dave Cutler); and son, Ari Fish (Heather Fish). He deeply loved his grandchildren and that brought him much laughter filled with hiccups, smiles and incredible pride: Benjamin and Jeremy Gordesky; Ethan and Jacob Fish; Ezra, Ashie, Nadav and Amital Cutler; and his many granddogs. He held close relationships with his siblings and in-laws: Judah (deceased) and Joy Fish; Miriam and Harold (deceased) Reisman; Vivian Forman; David and Linda Fish (both deceased); Cherie and Bill Artz; Joann and Dean Osborn; and David Deskins (deceased). He truly loved his family and they were a source of happiness and strength in his life.
Dr. Fish was an integral part of the many communities he navigated and found joy and value through his collegial relationships and his communal engagement. He constantly sought learning experiences, welcomed good humor, belly laugher, and opportunities to build meaningful collaborations. Whether he was cheering from the sidelines as his children played sports; attending school performances, choral programs or honors ceremonies; actively organizing educational initiatives at B'nai Sholom Congregation for the Jewish community and greater Tri-City area; or serving in his capacity as a pediatrician Dr. Charles Fish felt pride. He invested his life in meaningful relationships, education, and being part of communities larger than himself.
Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, the family held a private graveside service on Monday, January 25th. Charles’s nephew, Rabbi Ron Fish officiated.
In lieu of flowers please consider donating to: the Charles Fish Memorial Ritual Fund at B'nai Sholom Congregation, P. O. Box 271, Johnson City, TN, 37605-0271 www.bnaisholomtnva.org or Camp Ramah Scholarship Fund: Camp Ramah in New England 1206 Boston Providence Hwy., Suite 201, Norwood, MA, 02062 https://www.campramahne.org
Memories and condolences may be shared with the Fish family via morrisbaker.com.
Morris-Baker Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 2001 E. Oakland Ave., Johnson City, is serving the Fish family. (423) 282-1521