Oldest Worker: At 100, Architect Still Aspires to Build Spires

ByABC News
December 10, 2001, 12:29 PM

Dec. 10 -- One of Harold Fisher's favorite lines is "People who retire early die early."

It's no wonder, then, that the 100-year-old architect who still works five days a week at the Michigan firm he founded is being honored in Washington, D.C., today as "America's Oldest Worker."

Fisher, a native of Grosse Pointe, Mich., is receiving the award from Green Thumb, a national non-profit organization that provides job training and employment to America's seniors. The presentation takes place at the American Institute of Architects, of which Fisher is a member emeritus.

Specializing in church architecture, Fisher started Harold H. Fisher & Associates in 1945 outside Detroit. Since then, he has designed nearly 500 churches in Michigan, the Midwest and around the country. They have provided places of worship for the members of 50 different religious denominations.

Asked how he feels to be recognized for still showing up to work at his age, Fisher chuckled. "I just kept on living," he said. "I love my work, I love designing. It's kept me alive."

The Beauty of the Church

Fisher, born October 28, 1901, got his first taste of church architecture as an apprentice earning $2 a day in Uniontown, Pa. He credits his solid training in classical architecture to his studies at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in New York.

Why churches? In addition to the influence of a strongly religious upbringing, Fisher says the traditional beauty of the buildings drew his interest. "If you like design, you get most of it in churches and theaters. So I've put my life into church work."

Two of Fisher's personal favorites among his work in his native Detroit area are St. Lazarus Serbian Orthodox Church Ravanica and Westminster Presbyterian Church, his first major project. With hundreds of churches under his belt, Fisher insists that no two of his designs are alike. But all of them, he hopes, help people feel welcome in their faith and draw them closer to their church.