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Harry M. Fisher, 1945–2014: Commander of Victor McLaglen Motor Corps

By Wendell Perry

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar. 22 — Family and friends attending funeral services in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 22, were still stunned by Harry Fisher’s untimely death in Daytona Beach on Thursday, March 13, 2014, at the age of 68. Visitors were drawn by the sight of Colonel Fisher’s motorcycle staged outside St. Basil’s Catholic Church with the large, red VMMC ceremonial Victor McLaglen Motor Corps flag mounted on the rear fender, the folded Stars and Stripes draped on the handlebars, and Harry’s motorcycle boots mounted backward on the bike’s floorboards. An arrangement of red roses was draped across the seat, and Harry’s gauntlet gloves and drill leader whistle adorned the dashboard. VMMC members took turns dropping off mementos of Harry on the bike as individual expressions of their great respect for their commander of 35 years.

Colonel Harry Fisher

Colonel Harry Fisher, Commander of Victor McLaglen Motor Corps since 1979.

Father Frank Hicks, a longstanding member of the VMMC, is a priest at St. Basil’s and skillfully choreographed the proceedings that morning, initially proffering his official credentials, but then saying that he was there that day simply as a friend of Harry’s, putting himself on equal footing with the many others in the almost-capacity crowd in the sanctuary. He had tender words and prayers for Ruth, Harry’s wife of 43 years, as well as son Marty, who had his wife and young son in attendance.

Father Frank introduced a very good friend of the Motor Corps—actor, musician and lifetime biker, Mickey Jones—who spoke of meeting Harry at the Love Ride and later just hanging out with him. He spoke of the great honor and huge fright of being included in a Motor Corps flying “V” formation when he was Grand Marshal at the third annual Children’s Hospital Orange County Ride in June, 2002; Harry’s idea. Mickey had recently produced a comprehensive video documentary of the history of the Motor Corps called An American Treasure via his company Mickey Jones Shoestring Productions, and was made an honorary member of VMMC at a screening event held in Simi Valley in September 2012. Wearing his honorary VMMC member blue and black team shirt, Mickey was noticeably distressed as he expressed his personal appreciation for having known Harry, along with his personal grief for losing such a great friend too early. He then requested all the attending members of the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps to stand and salute their Commander, saying, “Harry, this salute is for you. We love ya and we miss ya.”

Father Frank Hicks

Father Frank Hicks, a member of VMMC, himself, officiates at Saint Basil’s Catholic Church memorial for Colonel Harry Fisher.

Details of Harry’s life in a seven-minute video prepared by Mickey that briefly, but comprehensively, depicted Harry’s life, was an unexpected treat for everyone. Further details about Harry came out in the personal remembrances of his step-siblings, Susan and Steve, and through the recounting of many stories shared by friends. Susan said she was grateful that Harry was a part of their family and that he taught her and Steve a lot about honesty and integrity. Steve shared his thought that if a person is obligated to create a legacy during his time on the earth, then Harry’s legacy was one of love and compassion coupled with a nonstop roller-coaster ride of ambitions and achievements.

Harry started his cycling life clinging to the gas caps on the tank of his mother’s ’46 H-D. He would often admit that between 1962 and 1977 motorcycles and racing were all he knew. Harry raced at Ascot, and is known to have performed a wall-of-fire stunt there. He first saw the VMMC perform when he was on a Death Valley run with his mother, she on a ’59 and he on a ’51, but didn’t get involved with the team until 1978.

In 1976 he started JC Armature Service, a company that rebuilt generators. In 1978 he started a funeral escort service that he ran until 2013. At the time of his death he was still active in long-haul trucking.

In 1979 Harry took over as Drill Leader for VMMC, accepting the huge responsibility for blowing the whistle that leads and punctuates the team stunts with confidence and authority while spearheading performances at venues all over the U.S.A. over the years.

Colonel Harry M. Fisher funeral

Colonel Harry M. Fisher’s bike, outside Saint Basil’s, ceremonially prepared for his last ride leading the VMMC

In 1980 Harry broke a world record for carrying 22 men on one motorcycle. In 1981 he topped that record with 23 people on one bike. At various times during his life Harry performed stunt work for television and films including CHiPs and an Evel Knievel movie. He was also the motorcycle “wrangler” for the movie Wild Hogs, during which he fell in love with the Santa Fe, New Mexico, area where he Ruth had recently relocated.

A male singing duo presented a moving a cappella rendition of “100 Miles” (“If you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone. You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles…”) Mark Frymoyer, a longtime VMMC member, remembered the very day that he first saw Harry. Mark had been 11 or 12 years old and was watching a parade in which the Motor Corps was performing. Harry had just learned to ride two motorcycles at once and was performing the “Roman Ride,” and to Mark he was larger than life. Mark said that was the kind of impact Harry had on people; if you met him once, you wanted to know him forever.

Mickey Minor, a member since 1985 who only recently retired from the Motor Corps and who thrilled crowds himself when he would climb to the top of the multiple-man rolling pyramids, did an excellent job of recounting a wall-of-fire stunt performed by Harry at THUNDER PRESS’s ground level thunder at Casa de Fruta in 1996, even showing the photo from the October issue of THUNDER PRESS that year with the bike punching through the flaming boards. Mickey pointed out the passenger riding behind Harry, recounting that it was Reg Kittrelle, founder of THUNDER PRESS. Mickey also shared that four years earlier, performing in Rapid City during the annual Sturgis rally, Harry had taken John Moser, a member of the Seattle Cossacks motorcycle drill team, through the wall of fire riding behind him. Mickey noted that John passed away last month, and speculated that he may be planning another show for when the whole team gets to stunt-riding heaven.

Attendees from the Harley-Davidson community included Mark Ruffalo, president of the Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealers Association and owner of California Harley-Davidson, where an impressive collection of Victor McLaglen memorabilia is housed in a large display case, including the large World Championship trophy won by the team in 1936 in competition against the famous Mexico City Motorcycle Drill Team. Tom and Barbara Scott, former owners of Anaheim-Fullerton Harley-Davidson and former keepers of the trophy, also attended, as well as Oliver Shokouh, owner of Harley-Davidson of Glendale, and Ron Bartels, from Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Marina Del Rey. Bruce Chubbuck, former Harley-Davidson dealer and retired VMMC member, also attended with his wife, Linda.

Prominent VMMC supporters Steve Schapiro and Stan Leventhal attended with wives, Kimmy and Theresa. Lori Stevens, American Diabetes regional director, flew in from Arizona, having developed a relationship with Harry and the VMMC through Rip’s BAD Ride. Neighbors of Harry and Ruth in New Mexico also flew in to pay their respects.

Father Frank executed his duty to keep this last event that Harry would participate in “on task,” and after a powerful and touching benediction, he called for the VMMC team members to assume the role of pallbearers. Saluting Harry again, they escorted the casket out of the church. Later, forming up at the mausoleum as the VMMC members bore the casket to Harry’s final resting place, family and friends were treated to the sound of motorcycles slowly climbing the hill to the site, another fitting salute to a drill leader/motorman who blew a mean whistle.

10 comments

  1. Jerry Hinds VDTRA #90

    Harry was my dear friend and co-worker when we traveled for Kawasaki motorcycle demo shows, and of course all the “Flat Track races” we could get to as spectators or competitors!!!!! I will truly miss my pal, God Speed ole friend!!!!!!!

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  2. Susie Ellsworth

    I saw the Drill team in Burbank, and went up to tell them that I had movies of Victor McLaughlin Drill team taken in 1935 by my uncle.
    He came over to watch them and there was other stuff in between.
    Just so happened it was a bunch of people at the water hole (San Francisquito Canyon), diving off the rocks, and sunning,,, he said, “My Mother”,,”That’s my Mother !” Her name was Ruth Sorenson at that point in time. He had me take the movies to a reunion dinner and some of the guys there ware in them and explained what, when and where they were taken, an interesting evening.

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  3. I rode with the hunting parks elks for 0 years with harry leading the group we also lead the roes parade several years doing ouir drill and stunts I remember when harry left the elks and rejoined the victors . I also rememger Ruth and harry’s next door neighbor Nick Oliver my best thoughts go with you <en

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  4. My name is Dovie and my dad is mickey minor. I remember when my dad was riding as a member of this wonderful family oriented group of guys and harry was a huge part of this family( i can still hear his whistles!!) My dad would take my son and daughter with him cause they just loved watching their gpa! I still cant believe harry is gone. And like they say he will NEVER be forgotten:) God bless you Ruth!❤

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  5. Hi. This is Dovie Minor Cabral, daughter of past member rider, Mickey Minor. It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you all of Mickeys passing. He died quietly at his home in Mission Viejo. You meant so much to him and he loved you all. He has gone to join Harry on their next ride together. GOD BLESS TJEM BOTH! :))(

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  6. Hi Ruth.. My name is Bob Jensen I rode with Harry when we worked for Rapid Blue Print Co. I’m sorry for your lose Bill Wiggins was a friend rode for Rapid also he passed in Oct . this year I remember going bar hopping with a lot of us guys that worked back then we came to your place and played poker I think you lived in Long Beach.. Judy Henry worked for Rapid and she on face book. I would like to hear from you. BOB

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  7. Hi Bob.

    I don’t think we ever met, but I know Harry thoroughly enjoyed Rapid Blue Print and talked about it often. In fact, I still have the blue helmet he wore when he was a motorcycle courier there!

    I recently released two books about the Motor Corps that you might be interested in. They are online and titled “The Amazing Victor McLaglen Motor Corps” and “Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Members”. The last one should be available by this weekend. It’s already been submitted.

    We had another friend named Bob Jensen who was a member in the Motor Corps. So if you write, be sure to let me know you are the one from Rapid. rthfisher4@gmail.com

    Ruth

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  8. Hi Dovie,

    I recently released that second book about the Motor Corps that you might be interested in. There’s lots about your dad there. It’s called “Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Members” and should be available on Amazon.com by this weekend. It’s already been submitted.

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  9. Hi Ken,

    I don’t know if you remember me, but maybe? I remember you.
    I recently released two books about the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps, “The Amazing Victor McLaglen Motor Corps” and “Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Members”. They are available on Amazon.com and you might find them interesting.

    Ruth

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  10. Hi Suzie,

    Harry talked of you often and your movie of his mom. Amazing.
    In case you might find it interesting, I recently released two books about the Motor Corps and, of course, there is plenty about Harry in them. They are, “The Amazing Victor McLaglen Motor Corps” and “Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Members” and available on Amazon.com.

    Ruth Fisher (the wife!)

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