Hans J. Fischer

Hans J. Fischer passed away peacefully August 27, 2020 at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, with his beloved wife Iris by his side.

Born December 10,1932, in Chicago to immigrants Hanns Fischer and Martha E. Feller, Hans grew up in their German-speaking household with his sister, Marta, playing sandlot baseball and attending Chicago public schools.

After declining a tuition scholarship to Princeton due to a shortage of money for travel and living costs, Hans enrolled in the Architecture program at the Navy Pier campus of the University of Illinois for his first year and then transferred to the Urbana-Champaign campus, earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1956.

Joining the Army ROTC during university, Hans fulfilled his two-year post-graduation commitment by serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as 2nd and then 1st Lieutenant. While he received Cold War-era training in low-yield nuclear demolitions, he served primarily with the 586th Float Bridge Company, part of the 151st Engineer Group.

Hans married Barbara J. Coffeen in 1953. Moving to Carbondale, Illinois, Barbara and Hans raised four sons—Richard, Kurt, Matthew, and Mark–who have variously inherited their Dad’s creativity and business acumen, love of learning, integrity, supreme confidence in one’s well-grounded and reason-based point of view, penchant for planning, and dedication to improving the community. Hans and Barbara divorced in 1979. Though Hans’s second marriage, to Carla M. Downs, ended in 1983, her daughter, Tina Pennington, stayed in touch for the remainder of Hans’s life.

At age 27, Hans co-founded the architectural firm that came to be known as Fischer-Stein Associates, leading the firm for 30 years in a wide variety of projects, including the unique and historic Senator Paul Simon Federal Building (powered by solar energy), completed in 1978.

He served on the Carbondale city council from 1969-1978 and then as mayor from 1979-1983. His many civic activities included flipping breakfast pancakes at the Carbondale Lions Club’s annual fundraiser and coaching little league baseball. He earned the Silver Beaver award for his many years of leadership in the Boy Scouts of America Egyptian Council in Southern Illinois. Two of his sons and both grandsons are Eagle Scouts.

Hans married Iris L. Smith in 1988. He “retired” in 1990 and moved with Iris to Lawrence, where she had joined the University of Kansas faculty.

Hans continued his architectural work in Kansas as a consultant. Most significantly, he focused on planning, design, and renovation of community libraries. In 1998, he began to provide services to communities in the Northeast Kansas Library System and for the next 15 years worked on over 50 library projects in towns across Kansas, including Overbrook, Bucklin, Greensburg, Abilene, Linwood, Mound City, and the South Argentine Branch of the Kansas City, KS, library system. He was active in the Kansas Library Association, Friends of Kansas Libraries, and the Kansas Library Trustee Association. In 2006 the American Library Association named him as one of the state’s five top library advocates of the 20th century.

Hans’s friends appreciated his sharp mind, deep and broad knowledge, sensible judgment, and calm manner. He particularly valued the regular meeting of his poker group/salon of learned men. In recent years he returned to an old love, water color painting, and continued to be an avid reader and master of crossword and Sudoku puzzles until the day he suffered the stroke that led to his death.

Hans is survived by his wife, Iris Smith Fischer; his sister, Marta Evans (Roy) of Deerfield, Illinois; sons Richard of Calico Rock, Arkansas; Kurt (Laurie Kersten) of Nanaimo, British Columbia; Matthew (Maggie) of Pagosa Springs, Colorado; and Mark (Tammy) of Sycamore, Illinois; and grandchildren Sarah, J.C. (Andi), Kiah, and Lucas. All are grateful Hans lived to see the Cubs win the World Series.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Donations in Hans’s name may be made to the Lawrence Public Library Friends and Foundation (LPLFF) or the LMH Health Foundation, in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, PO Box 1260, Lawrence KS 66044.

Messages & Condolences

From James B. Carothers...

Iris, I enjoyed Hans’s company, especially when we got of into a corner somewhere and told each other some baseball stories of our younger days. He was always congenial, polite, and cheerful: a fine mind in a fine host. We are fortunate to have known him.

Jim Carothers

From Jim Minges...

Hans was a thoroughly enjoyable person to know. He personally created the architectural consulting service of the Northeast Kansas Library system, and helped dozens of libraries in Northeast Kansas. No project or library was ever too large or too small, too routine or too complicated for Hans. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for improvement of library service. I offer sincere condolences to Iris.

From Kiersten Allen...

Hans was an exceptional leader, teacher and mentor – and no, those three things are not the same. He was witty. He was direct. He got things done. He was forever young. He will be missed.

From Manfred Stinnes and Annelie Runge...

Dear Iris,
We would like to express again our deeply felt condolences.
We had the privilege of having been neighbors when we stayed at the Max Kade Center and enjoyed a pleasant and stimulating time in 2012. A year later we met again in Berlin. He became a part of our cherished memories. May he rest in peace.

From Maryemma...

Iris, thank you for sharing Hans will all of us. We had such wonderful conversations. A contribution to the Library in his name is on its way –what a wonderful idea. Keeping you in my prayers.

From Kathy Hagen...

I’m sorry to hear of Hans passing. We worked together on several library projects in Northeast Kansas and had great discussions as we traveled to several meetings around the state.

From David Dunfield...

Working with Hans was a pleasure of my career. Meeting Hans and Iris was a pleasure of my life.

From Dick Eversole...

You were fortunate to have found each other, Iris, and I was fortunate to have known him. He was an easy person to like and I loved listening to him tell of his rich past experiences. I’m grateful that you and he visited us here on Bainbridge Island, what a pleasant afternoon that was.

From Susan K and William J Harris...

Iris, we are so very sorry about Hans’s passing. Deeply sorry for you, as a loving, caring, companion; sorry for the community, in losing a dear friend. Billy and I will long remember our conversations sitting on the airy porch that Hans designed, listening to Hans tell us about his work with library committees across the state. He is a wonderful man, and we will continue to miss him, even across these distances. We offer our sincere condolences, and we salute you for your own courage and care over these last years.

From Frank Farmer...

Linda and I were so sorry to hear of Hans’s passing, Iris. What a generous person, and what a full and rich life he led! Please accept our sympathies, and please know that you are in our thoughts during this difficult time.

From Katie Conrad...

to Iris and the rest of Hans’s family–
This was a beautiful obituary, and I learned much about the man who I came to know as a wickedly good fencer in the last few years. I will miss him, and my love and prayers go out to all of you.

From Marni Penrod...

I’m very sorry for your loss. We worked with Hans on the Overbrook Public Library. His guidance throughout the project was very valuable to me. Prayers for your peace and comfort.

From Jeannie Russell...

Sorry to hear about Hans. You are in my thoughts and prayers Iris. I enjoyed the time I spent caring for Hans and making his protein drinks.

From Sibylle und Axel Hirsmüller, Grossbettlingen...

Liebe Iris, liebe Angehörige,
die Nachricht von Hans`Tod hat uns sehr betroffen gemacht. Wir sind glücklich, dass wir die Möglichkeit hatten Hans und dich liebe Iris in Deutschland zu treffen. Er hatte so viel Ähnlichkeit mit unserem Opa, den wir alle sehr geliebt haben. Hans hatte sicher ein sehr erfülltes Leben und ich denke du liebe Iris und die Söhne und die Tochter mit Familien werden sich sicher gerne an ihn erinnern. Es war so eine Harmonie zwischen dir, liebe Iris und Hans, und wir wünschen dir viel Kraft die Trauer zu bewältigen. Du bist immer ganz herzlich auch bei uns in Deutschland willkommen. Wir senden dir und der Familie unsere herzliche Anteilnahme – Lieben Gruß und alles Gute aus Deutschland

From Jeanne Klein...

Sending my very deepest sympathies, Iris. Hans was such an intelligent and gentle man full of compassion. My ongoing prayers are with you and family members. May you find peace and love always.

From Edgar Tidwell...

Please accept my most heartfelt condolences, Iris. I hope you will call on me if you think I can assist you in this grievous time. Scripture tells us that weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning. May the wonderful times you shared with Hans bring you comfort and joy. —Edgar

From Laura Mielke...

I am sending you my love, Iris, and praying that you may find peace in this time of mourning. Please let me know if you need anything at all.

From Laura Moriarty...

I’m thinking of you, Iris. I’m so very sorry.

From Dorice Elliott...

Iris,
I’m so sorry! I knew he was very sick but not that this was immanent. He was a wonderful person and all who knew him will miss him. I hardly know what to say at this point except that you are and will be in my thoughts and prayers continually. You were so good to him and he was lucky to have you in the last years of his life; I hope you feel some comfort in knowing that.
All my love!

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