By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

Friends and staff of the Fort Hood Fisher House, a "home away from home" for families visiting ailing service members, celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of its founder, Zachary Fisher, on Thursday.

Cake, balloons and donations from area Walmarts filled the house's airy, welcoming downstairs.

Director Isaac Howard greeted party guests.

"Would you like any cake?" he asked the handful of Army personnel who came to express their gratitude for his services.

The Fort Hood Fisher House, one of 45 worldwide, is located at Santa Fe Drive and Wrattan Drive, near the south parking lot of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. It was a gift from Fisher and his wife Elizabeth, New York philanthropists who championed the conversion of the U.S.S. Intrepid into a museum in 1982, among other ventures.

Family's stay is free

The Fisher House offers a home-like environment for families who travel to visit service members hospitalized for any number of reasons. The family's stay, including food, is completely free.

Rooms are spacious and made to look like someone's bedroom, not a hotel room. One suite has a rocking chair and two double beds, covered with patchwork quilts. Magazines and other reading material cover the desk.

"We're not funded by the government or the military," said Howard. "Everything you see here is donated."

The Fisher House at Fort Hood can host up to seven families at one time and has a 70 percent occupancy rate, according to Howard. Families stay for one week, on average.

The Fisher House Foundation has received numerous recognitions from different presidents since its inception in 1990. Most recently the foundation received some of President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize money.

The organization served 11,000 families in 2009, according to its website.

Fisher died in 1999, but the Fisher House at Fort Hood still honored his legacy Thursday.

Sgt. 1st Class Santiago Mascarro, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, learned about Fisher's legacy from Howard, he said. Four of his soldiers' families have used the house in recent years.

Having a facility like the Fisher House, and someone as warm as Howard leading it, alleviates financial and emotional stress on families as well as the solider, Mascarro said.

'A new life'

Howard, who retired from the Army in 1981, said the Fisher House has given him "a new life."

"I would just be a regular old retiree, floating around, bothering people, driving too slow on U.S. 190, if not for this," he said. "Mr. Fisher gave me something to thrive for."

Contact Colleen Flaherty at or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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