Let the memory of Jeanne be with us forever.
  • 94 years old
  • Born on May 29, 1924 in Hoquiam, Washington, United States.
  • Passed away on September 4, 2018 in Tacoma, Washington, United States.

Jeanne L. Fischer, 94, died peacefully on September 4, 2018 with her loved ones at her side. Jeanne was born on May 29, 1924 in Hoquiam, WA, and lived in Tacoma since 1954.  After graduating from Hoquiam High School, Jeanne attended University of Washington from 1943-1946 and University of Kansas from 1947-1948, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy.  At KU she met and married Howard Fischer.  After graduation Jeanne worked two years at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, MO.  She then opened the new PT department at Medicine Lodge Hospital in Kansas. Jeanne and Howard and their two young daughters moved to Tacoma in 1954 where Jeanne became a PT at American Lake Veteran’s Hospital.

In 1958 Jeanne began a 31-year career as a pediatric physical therapist for Tacoma School District, starting as the supervisor of the PT Department at the “Crippled Children’s School”. In 1963 her students were incorporated into two new elementary schools, Seward and Truman, which were built to accommodate handicapped students. Jeanne took particular pride at being a central part of the inclusion of handicapped or ‘exceptional’ students into ‘regular’ classrooms. This was part of the Tacoma School District’s innovative orthopedically handicapped program, one of only three in the country at the time.

Jeanne worked at Truman School from 1965 to 1974, when she became an ‘itinerant’ physical therapist for three schools (for ages 3-21) and coordinator of the YMCA handicapped swim program. In 1978 Jeanne became an itinerant physical therapist for high school students ages 16-21, at six different high schools. In 1982 Jeanne established the first therapeutic aquatics program at YMCA Tacoma for those over 18 with cerebral palsy and similar conditions. By 1986 she worked primarily at Foss and Mount Tahoma high schools, helping disabled students transition from high school to community programs. After retiring from Tacoma School District in 1989, Jeanne continued to work in her own practice until 1998. She worked part-time as a therapist for Sumner School District and continued her activities with the YMCA handicapped aquatics program.

Alongside her work in the schools, Jeanne participated in professional organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).  She was active on the community, state and national levels. She was instrumental in establishing the Pediatric Special Interest Group of Washington State Physical Therapy Association (WSPTA). She participated in the development of state certification of school therapists in 1971, serving on the WA State Board of Examiners. In 1980 Jeanne was part of a task force establishing pediatrics as a specialty area within APTA. She developed and published the first Procedural Manual for the Section on Pediatrics. In 1986 she participated in developing the first examination for certification of pediatric physical therapist clinical specialists.

Jeanne established the Tacoma-Pierce County Council of United Cerebral Association (UCP) of Washington State in 1985 and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Pierce County in 2000.  In 1984 Jeanne was appointed as Pediatric Physical Therapy Consultant to the Surgeon General and Office of the Chief Medical Specialist Corps.She served as a consultant in the “Exceptional Family Member” program for the Army from 1984 to 1995, helping to develop programs for handicapped children in overseas dependent schools. She travelled to military bases in Germany to train and mentor pediatric PTs working with disabled children.

Jeanne received numerous awards and much recognition for her excellence in the area of pediatric physical therapy. Some of her notable awards are: G. E. DeHaven Award (1981) for extraordinary service to the Pediatric Section of APTA; Lucy Blair Service Award (1983) for exceptional contributions to APTA; Kendall Award (1987) from APTA for outstanding achievement in clinical practice; Distinguished Service Award (1991) from the WA State Physical Therapy Association; Duncan Award (1999) from UCP of WA in recognition of commitment to young adults with cerebral palsy.  She was honored for 50 years of membership and service by the APTA in 1996, recognized as being a pioneer of the physical therapy profession.

The Jeanne Fischer Distinguished Mentorship Award was created by the American Physical Therapy Association in 1993 to recognize contributions in mentorship and clinical teaching in pediatrics. Every year this award is given to a member of the APTA Pediatrics Section who has been nominated for ‘sustained, altruistic mentorship’. Jeanne excelled at mentoring other therapists and valued the friendships it created. She was very proud to present this award every year.

Jeanne loved to travel and she visited many cities in the U.S. and Canada, mostly in connection with her APTA and UCP activities. San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City, Reno, D.C., San Diego, Anaheim, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Boston – all were cities mentioned in her yearly Christmas letters. She often explored the wider vicinities, and visited friends that she seemed to know in every city. Jeanne was passionate about her profession, and she was also interested in anything exciting surrounding that, particularly unique experiences, fascinating places and new friends. She highly valued the time she spent with other physical therapists, both as a mentor and a friend.

Jeanne and Howard traveled to Hawaii, Midway Island, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Berlin, and England.In 1993, after going to Germany for her work with Army pediatric physical therapists, Jeanne journeyed through Turkey with close friends living there.Her experiences there created some of her most cherished memories.

Jeanne’s love of traveling, adventure and the water all contributed to her love of boating. Her first boat in 1983, “Jeanne’s Dream”, was a 22-foot Bayliner that could be found motoring around the San Juan Islands (often with friends or grandchildren aboard). A 25-foot Bayliner was substituted in 1990, and explored the gulf islands in Sydney, Canada in 1991. An enjoyable destination was the Jazz Festival every year on San Juan Island. On more child-friendly excursions, the most cherished passengers were the grandchildren.

Jeanne had a love of music, particularly jazz, big bands and 1940’s classics. She loved to dance, from the USO dances in the 1940’s to dancing at the McChord Officer’s Club in the 1960’s-70’s. Jeanne was happiest at a social gathering, talking, laughing and dancing.The meeting of the ‘Bridge Club’ became an important social event. When friends teased her about being the ‘life of the party’, Jeanne would attribute it to her Gemini traits of being expressive, intelligent, communicative and enthusiastic.

Jeanne was definitely enthusiastic about sports, in particular cheering for football teams – Huskies, Seahawks and KU. She and Howard would attend the Apple Cup every year and go to the Rose Bowl to see the Huskies. Gathering groups of friends together to watch football games was a highlight for them. They also enjoyed skiing and went on many ski trips with friends. Jeanne loved to walk along ocean beaches and enjoyed vacationing at Lake Chelan. Mostly Jeanne loved to swim, anywhere and everywhere she could.

Family was very important to Jeanne.She marked every holiday, birthday or special event with a grand celebration and much laughter. She loved having her family around her. Husband, mother, aunt, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren; each one cherished.She felt joy in their achievements, always supportive of their efforts, saddened by their hardships.She experienced the pain of loss, and the great happiness brought by new additions.

Jeanne’s life was fulfilling and rewarding. It was filled with close, life-long friends, professional friends and all of the people and students she worked with during her career. She helped many people with her skills, her caring touch and her dedication. Jeanne approached each day with joyful anticipation and a determination to make every moment count. She worked tirelessly to help others, to educate, to train, to mentor, and to heal. She set high ideals for herself and thus held high expectations for others. She was a strict taskmaster, but always with smiles and encouragement. A quote from Jeanne shows her view: “Let’s talk about the kids – young adults really. In some way, everyday, I make them whole.I give them self-esteem and mobility while others in society might ignore them or give them pity. I don’t believe in pity.”

Yes, she was highly productive and extremely talented; dedicated, intelligent, driven, competitive, and ambitious. Describing Jeanne would include mentioning those traits perhaps. But along with those attributes include vivacious, adventuresome, joyful, caring, giving, encouraging, and loving. Throw in an insatiable appetite for learning and a passion for teaching. Finally, add in a penchant for perfection and a flair for fashion to paint a picture of Jeanne in all of her glorious colors.

Speaking about her students after receiving the Kendall Award in 1987 she said “I really have no idea why I won the award, although it’s a great honor. I guess it’s because I accentuate abilities over disabilities. And I just like them all so much.” That's how she approached life. And she just liked us all so much.

Jeanne was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, Howard (1925-2008), her daughter Constance J. Fischer (1954-1994), mother, Ruth Van Wormer (1895 -1995) and aunt, Emma Charlot (1897 -1995). She is survived by her daughters Kathryn Edmondson (William) and Carole Coverdale; grandchildren Katryna Edmondson, Ian Edmondson (Emily) and Derek Edmondson; great-grandchildren Jenna Edmondson, and Daniel, Alexa and Ava Colondona.

Memorials are suggested to United Cerebral Palsy (wwww.ucp.org – 800-872-5827).

Posted by Eric Fletcher on 22nd November 2018
Our parents played bridge together for years. My mom had taken a bad fall in our kitchen in 1975 and your mom came over to our house to help my mom get back on her feet, using nothing but her hands. This inspired me to consider a career in Physical therapy and the next year during my high school spring break, I had planned to spend a day with your mom at Truman Jr. High but ended up coming back for the entire week. This was my 2nd introduction to the power of physical therapy, under your moms watchful eye. Fast forward a bunch of years and I have been a practicing physical therapist in Seattle for the past 35 years and I owe my introduction to the career that was a perfect fit for me to your mom. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her. it obviously was very life changing for me. Please accept my condolences. Eric Fletcher
Posted by Tracy Vandewall on 25th September 2018
Jeanne was certainly remarkable. She served as a model for positive expectation and maximizing potential of all citizens, including those with special needs. Her enthusiasm for those children and adults she served was contagious. She understood the importance of her role in individual lives and community advocacy. Jeanne served on the Steering Committee of the Pierce County Coalition for Developmental Disabilities (pc2online.org) from 1997-2005. In 1998 PC2 introduced the Jeanne L Fisher Award, in recognition for a lifetime devoted to the empowerment and inclusion of those who experience a Developmental Disability. The effects of her work will live on far beyond her passing. The world is a better place because she was here. I/we were honored to know her.
Posted by Doug Rix on 25th September 2018
Jeanne, was a lifelong friend of my mom and dad, Al and Peggy Rix. They had so much fun together over many years. My sympathy to her family.
Posted by Kim Knox on 24th September 2018
Though I never had the the honor of meeting Jeanne, it is very apparent that she led a very full life and made so many contributions in so many ways. Her services will forever be remembered and appreciated by those she impacted in ways big and small.
Posted by SUSAN WAGNER on 23rd September 2018
What a lovely tribute to an amazing woman. Growing up with Connie allowed me to get to know your family well. So many wonderful memories! Your mother's strength, humor and kindness have stayed with me all of these years. I hold Connie close to my heart still. There is ample room for both. How fortunate you are to have had your mother in your lives for so long. With a big hug to you, Kathy and Carol~ Susie, or as your mom called me~ "SueBab"
Posted by Jeff Wolcott on 23rd September 2018
Kathy, my sincere condolences. I remember your mother as a very kind and generous person.

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