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Oak Street man `changed' Family, friends ask Why?'

Article from The Wakefield Daily Item


30 CENTS            245-0080




WAKEFIELD - When two young children found Bobby Fisher's body on Thursday, Feb.

19, much of this winter's snow was still on the ground.  February school vacation was coming to a close, and the youngsters were outdoors enjoying their days of freedom from the classroom. Sometime around 2 p.m., while tirelessly plowing their way through the woods behind the basketball court at Mapleway Playground, they discovered his body.


Bobby Fisher, with seemingly insurmountable pressures from within and without, had taken his life in the last 12-24 hours.  What happened to this handsome, athletic, bright 22-year-old will never fully be known. People who were close to him, however, from his Waltham High School football coach and sister Lisa to his wife Joanne  speak respectively of his leadership qualities, his intensity for achieving more than he already had, and of his love for God.


Somewhere along the way, however, an inability to work due to physical ailments and the death of his infant son may have been too much for him. He and his wife were living on Oak Street in Greenwood at the time of his death.


Lisa (Fisher) Taylor, Bobby's sister, remembers her brother as a "very athletic" teenager and young adult who liked hunting, fishing, football and baseball while growing up in Waltham. She reminisced about his spirituality and his hunger to give as much of himself as possible. She spoke proudly and at length last week about Bobby being named Homecoming King and the "best looking" male in his high school graduating class.


But Lisa also said Bobby went from being a leader "who was smiling all the time" to a man who stopped smiling, failed to keep in touch with friends and who threw out his high school yearbook about the same time he joined the Wilmington branch of The Bible Speaks.


By all accounts, the church, based in Lenox and presently involved in a federal bankruptcy court case with millionairess Betsy Dayton-Dovydenas, played a big part in Bobby Fisher's life over the last two years.


His sister said Bobby attended noon mass at a Waltham Catholic church every day when he was home on breaks from the University of New Hampshire, where he attended under a partial athletic scholarship. But he became turned off by what Lisa calls the "coldness" of the Catholic worship, and decided that it was time to look for another church.  He joined The Bible Speaks in the summer of 1985, and left UNH.


Bobby's football coach at Waltham High was Bob Connors, present coach at Wakefield High. "He was a real fine kid," Connors said, "and a great athlete to coach. He was our spiritual leader that year."


As a starting cornerback. Bobby led the 1982 Waltham High football team's defensive unit, nicknamed "The Dirty Dogs." The team was undefeated going into its Thanksgiving Day game with Brockton. where a trip to the Division I Super Bowl was at stake. They lost the game, Connors said, much to every player's disappointment.


Connors remembers Bobby Fisher as a young man who was "always smiling, and always good in class. Teachers never had any problems with him." Connors added that Bobby was "never depressed." Bobby also was the catcher for Waltham High's baseball team, and Connors said "he was pretty much the leader of that group too. The kids respected him."


Connors also said that he learned Bobby was living in Wakefield during the 1986 football season, and talked with him near the end of the campaign. He and Bobby made tentative plans to go out to dinner when the season was completed, but Bobby never returned a call to set up a date and time.


After Bobby's wake, Connors said he talked with some former teammates, and "everybody was absolutely shocked. But they told me he just wasn't the same Bobby who played with us."


Sometime after Bobby joined The Bible Speaks in 1985, he met his wife, and they were married in November of that year. They were both deeply committed to the church, with Bobby teaching children in Sunday school.


Bobby's wife, who still belongs to the church, said last week that "If he were alive today, he'd still be in the church, worshipping God. He loved God with all his heart."


"I loved him deeply, and he was a good husband," she said.  Bobby was working for the Parrella Construction Company when he and Joanne Fisher were first married, but he contracted a form of mononucleosis over the winter of 1986, and was laid up for months and out of work All the while, he still belonged to the church.


Lisa Taylor said Bobby was making about $400 a week as a construction worker, and gave $40 a week to the Wilmington branch of The Bible Speaks. "The bottom line," she said, "is that things just went right downhill at the time he joined the church."


Rev. Michael Garrigan, a Bible Speaks pastor, called the Daily Item the day after a message was left for John Palmer, who runs the Wilmington church but was out of town.  Pastor Garrigan said "Bob Fisher's death was a very untimely, tragic thing. It was too much of a tragedy for all people concerned to discuss anything about Bobby and his relationship to the church."


He also was asked to answer some charges that Lisa Fisher had made about Bobby turning against his past when he joined the church.  Garrigan, answering a question about whether the church stresses the importance of itself over member's families, said "This is just a Biblical, New Testament church."


The pressures of being out of work, and of losing an infant son later in 1986, however, appear to have weighed more heavily on Bobby than The Bible Speaks did.


Other charges have been made against The Bible Speaks. and its leader Carl Stevens, however. The majority of them deal with the division of families and deception to keep membership faithful. None of the charges have ever been proven.


Saugus resident Tom Sullivan has been waging a war against the church, which has as members three of Sullivan's adult children. Sullivan has alleged that the Rev. Stevens has "mentally enslaved and brainwashed my children," whom Sullivan claims look upon him as a "non-believer" because he protests their involvement in the church. Sullivan claims he was physically attacked by members of The Bible Speaks when he picketed in front of the church's Framingham branch. All he wants is to get his children back.


A support group for Bible Speaks members who elect to leave the church, called Twelve Inc., was involved in a picket of the Lenox campus in June 1986. The president of the group, James Bisgrove. claimed that the church divides families and uses deception to earn the loyalty of its members.


The Dovydenas case, in which the millionairess is trying to reclaim about $7 million she donated to  the church, had final arguments heard last Thursday in federal bankruptcy court in Worcester.


Also at stake, in addition to $7 million, is The Bible Speaks First Amendment rights.  The Bible Speaks has 70 churches around the world, and spokespeople for the denomination say it adheres to the standards in the Bible.

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