Surrounded by the warmth of her beloved family, Ida Mae Fisher, 89, passed peacefully on Wednesday, September 14, after a life filled with tight hugs, laughter, and love.
Born in 1933 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Ida lived adventurously, refusing to conform to anyone’s expectations or conventionality. She followed her heart and was not afraid to take a leap of faith or begin a new chapter in unknown territory. As a young woman, Ida’s work as a nanny in the Pioneer Valley led to a close relationship with the family of renowned children's author Howard Roger Garis of the Uncle Wiggily series.
Ida took opportunities when she saw them, planting roots as far away as Arizona, or as close as Arlington Heights, where she spent the majority of her adult life. Those who lived close by in the 60s and 70s can still recall her smiling face behind the counter at Ma and Pa Perkins’ Sub Shop or offering extra sprinkles in her cones at Brigham’s Ice Cream Parlor.
A friend, mother, and grandmother to all, Ida’s beliefs were ahead of her time, as she always welcomed friends, family, or acquaintances into her home, regardless of their background or identity. Her heart was as big as her inviting smile, and she found purpose caring for others, especially as a nanny to young children. Relative or not, dozens of children over the span of several decades would only know Ida as “Nan” or “YiaYia,” a familiar source of comfort and a grownup they could trust.
If you were in the company of Ida as a child, you’d eagerly await her famous crêpe-style pancakes in the early mornings and her holiday sugar cookies when the weather turned cold. She possessed a rare innocence in her patience with children and was always her happiest while absorbed in imaginative play, crafts, or exploring a nearby playground. She found so much joy in the big and the small, from summer visits to the Swan Boats to a quiet game of gin rummy on a rainy afternoon.
It was in Ida’s nature to give. She loved doling out gifts to her children and grandchildren, whether they be beloved dolls, handmade scarves, or an intricate snowflake cut from her paper placemat. If you arrived at Ida’s home empty handed, you could expect to leave with at least a trinket or two. An avid reader and cinephile, Ida proudly displayed her impressive music and video library in her home and was always eager to share her collection with others. For any loved one’s milestone, Ida prided herself in creating and gifting beautiful quilts to celebrate the occasion.
In her later years, Ida took comfort in staying close to her daughter, Robin, often visiting her Leominster home and situating herself in “Nan’s chair” to color, knit, and watch her grandchildren and great-grandchildren play around her. Even when physical play became out of reach, Ida would enthusiastically invite her great-grandchildren to sit on her lap for a story or sneak a peppermint candy out of her purse. Ever the sweet-tooth, Ida ensured a cookie, candy, or little treat was never too far out of arm’s reach.
Ida’s legacy is her unmatched love for her family; whatever hand she was dealt, Ida made the most of her circumstances and made sure those around her knew how much she cared for them. She hugged like she meant it, and her feelings were never inhibited. Ida had a sharp mind and loved fiercely up until her final moments, and her presence will be greatly missed.
Ida is survived by her children, Robin (Fisher) Smith of Leominster and David Fisher of Cambridge; her grandchildren, Keith Fisher of Leominster, Jasmine Smith of Montague, and Samantha Smith of Northampton; her great-grandchildren, Julian Fisher, Fiona Ribeiro, Evelyn Ribeiro, Mabel Enman, and Jaxson Fisher; her longtime and dear friend, Alicia Price; and many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her brother, William Fish, in 2011.
Ida’s family would like to extend their gratitude to Life Care Center of Leominster for their heartfelt and compassionate care over the past five years. Per Ida’s request, no funeral services are planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Globe Santa, one of Boston’s oldest children’s gift-giving charities, or The Home for Little Wanderers.