Published: November 2, 2021
By Madelia Hickman Ring
NEW YORK CITY – Laura Irene Fisher passed away in New York City on Wednesday, September 29, at the age of 76. The cause of death was a heart attack.
A lifelong New Yorker, she was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on March 24, 1945, the daughter of Herman and Frances Fisher. Her mother was a housewife, and her father was in the hardware business. She attended Cornell University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University’s Home Economics School (now College of Human Ecology) in 1966.
Laura’s professional career started with social science research and a job as Hearings Coordinator and Public Information director of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, where she worked for Eleanor Holmes Norton. Her work led to changes in public policy and legislation that eliminated discrimination against women, minorities, the disabled and Vietnam War-era veterans in the 1970s.
In an undated Cornell University alumni publication, she penned an autobiographical blurb in which she described her evolution to an antiques dealer as the result of “a quirk of fate…instead of graduating Cornell having found out what I wanted to do in life, what I would do best found me.”
In 1975, she won by chance three months of a storefront at Manhattan’s Art and Antiques Center on 67th Street and First Avenue. After the three months was up, she signed up for a permanent booth and never looked back, eventually taking a large space at the Manhattan Art & Antiques Center on Second Avenue and 54th Street. She dealt in Americana with a specialization on quilts and textiles.
Laura contributed a chapter to America’s Glorious Quilts, edited by Dennis Duke and Deborah Harding in 1987 and authored Quilts of Illusion: Tumbling Blocks, Delectable Mountains, Stairway to Heaven, Log Cabin, Windmill Blades, and Other Optical Designs in 1988. She lectured at museums, made guest appearances on radio and television shows, and was a contributor to quilt exhibitions and collections.
Professional colleagues remembered her as a voracious shopper who enjoyed travel and trying anything new. Her keen eye, scholarship and interests in a vast array of various categories was noted, as was her willingness to share her knowledge with friends and clients. One of her clients was the film-maker Ken Burns, who was reported to have purchased a quilt from Laura after completing each of his documentaries.
Marcia Berman worked with Laura in the 1960s and Laura helped her find an apartment. The long-time friend enjoyed going to Broadway plays, museum and photography exhibits with Laura. It was with “a heavy heart” that Berman announced Laura’s “passing of a cherished friend” on Facebook shortly after her death.
Textile restorer Tracy Jamar met Laura in 1985 when she began her own quilt and textile restoration business. Laura introduced Tracy to the man that would become her husband. She remembered Laura as “so optimistic, so encouraging and so supportive. She had great style and color, a brightness to her.” Jamar has fond memories of Laura loaning her a black and white embroidered jacket to wear to a wedding that “was just perfect.”
“She loved meeting people and traveling. She was always available to get together and everything you’d want a friend to be.”
Ohio-based Michael Council shared several memories. “I met Laura in 1982 at her very small shop on Second Avenue; she worked half a day at the Civil Rights Commission for the City of New York. We were both just starting out and we became fast friends helping each other! I flew into NY every week for years and saw Laura and other clients and we would go to dinner. We took many trips together – Nantucket, spas and many antiques shows in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Laura would visit me in Ohio from time to time and go to shows together. We had a mutual friend, Avis Skinner, who became very close to both of us, and Laura and Avis became fast gal pals. Avis was the last person to speak to Laura.”
“We went to Brimfield for many, many years,” remembered Skinner, who had an antiques business on Nantucket for nearly 50 years. “I learned a lot about quilts from her by going to Brimfield and doing the Pier shows, where I sometimes helped her. At the time, I was buying china and clothing and she was a help with her knowledge of different textiles. I would always spend six months a year in New York City where we would go to movies, plays, openings. I’m postponing my return to New York City because I don’t know what I’ll do without her.
“She had lots of energy and got me to go see things I probably wouldn’t have gone to,” Skinner continued. “She spent 25 years of Christmases with my family in New York and New Jersey, she always brought some pretty amazing presents.” Avis remembered a plastic high-heel shoe phone that Laura gave her daughter that epitomized her “great sense of humor.”
“I have a framed quilt I recently bought for her that I still have here on Nantucket. We couldn’t figure out how to get it to New York City. I’ll keep it as it will always remind me of her.”
Laura is survived by a brother, Elliot Fisher, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Ventner, N.J.; her niece, Lauren Coleman of Lake Worth, Fla., and nephew, Michael Fisher of Dallas, Texas. She never married.
Laura’s business has closed and Marcia Berman said its contents will be auctioned in spring 2022, the details of which will be announced.
Laura was cremated and a memorial service was held, via Zoom, on Sunday, October 24. Donations may be made in her memory to Cornell University, College of Human Ecology.
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