In Memoriam  April 10, 1963

USS Thresher  (SSN 593)

Richard Kaye Fisher

Mechanical Engineer



“Richard Kaye Fisher, 29, spent his childhood in New York, where he attended local schools in Whitestone, Long Island.  He was graduated with high scholastic honors in 1952, from Bayside High School.  During his school years, Richard was a key member of the swimming team, and president of Phi Alpha Sigma Fraternity.

In the fall of 1953, he enlisted in the U. S. Army and trained as a radio operator.  While at Fort Benning, Georgia,  he started his college education by taking night courses at the University of Georgia.

After 2 years of active duty Richard returned to New York and enrolled in City College of New York.  In 1957, he transferred to the University of New Hampshire, where he completed his studies and was graduated June 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Following a year of teaching at Newmarket NH High School, Richard accepted a position with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the Design Section as a test engineer.

In addition to his wife, the former Margaret Ann Schurman of Conway, New Hampshire, he is survived by two children; Terry Ann and Roger Kaye”. — US Navy

A memorial to the 129 men who lost their lives aboard submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) in 1963 will be dedicated this fall at Arlington National Cemetery, after a six-year campaign to win the Army’s approval for the project.

Built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the Thresher sank on April 10, 1963, about 220 miles off Cape Cod. The mishap began with a piping failure that the ship and the crew could not recover from.  Seventeen civilians from the shipyard and contractors were on board, along with Thresher’s crew of 16 officers and 96 sailors, when it left the shipyard for deep-dive testing and sank, killing all 129 aboard.  

Commissioned in August 1961, USS Thresher was the world’s most technologically advanced nuclear powered submarine of her day. She was designed to be our Nation’s silent guardian by hunting down and destroying Soviet Ballistic Missile Submarines before they could unleash their nuclear weapons on key military installations and cities across our Nation.   After commissioning, USS Thresher conducted lengthy trials in the western Atlantic and Caribbean  in 1961 and 1962, providing a thorough evaluation of her many new technological features and weapons. After the completion of these test operations, Thresher returned to her builders for overhaul. 

Kevin Galeaz, president of the USS Thresher Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Foundation, said, “we owe our lives to these guys.  The sinking led the Navy to institute the SUBSAFE program to maintain quality assurance in submarine construction, and to design and build submarines to recover from unexpected flooding.   In June 1963, in the aftermath of the loss of Thresher while investigations, design reviews and testimony to congress were in progress the SUBSAFE Program was created. 

“The SUBSAFE Program is the legacy of those lost on USS Thresher – and it has made a lasting significant contribution to the Submarine Force, the United States Navy and to our Nation.”  Rear Admiral J. Clarke Orzalli (Retired)

Remembering Richard Fisher:

By: George Walker, New Market Historical Society Board of Director:  

Yes we remember Dick Fisher.

He was from  outside New York City.  His parents owned an old farmhouse on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River in Lyme, NH. That was their “getaway place” in the country. He graduated from UNH with an engineering degree, married Maggie Schurman from Conway, and they started a family, living in an upstairs apartment in downtown Durham over what was then Grant’s Restaurant.  He took a teaching job at Newmarket High School but the starting salary was not adequate to support his growing family so he signed on at the Navy Yard.

Dick and Maggie, with another partner, were in the beginning stages of establishing a campground on the Kancamagus Highway next to the Swift River at the time of Dick’s death.  Maggie eventually bought out the partner and with the help of her dad, who became the onsite manager, they developed the campground.  Maggie later married a dentist, Stephen Whitner. The Whitners then adopted Maggie’s children, Terry and Roger.

We were good friends with the Fishers and vacationed with them in Lyme at the old farm house enjoying the river for swimming and water skiing. We also vacationed at the Swift River Campground and visited with Maggie’s father Dave.   Dick played basketball on some of the Newmarket “town teams” we had in those days. We would run around the UNH campus in the early mornings trying to stay in shape then shower in the old field house before going to work. 

 (photo: Shirley and George Walker. Shirley was a teacher at Newmarket High School with Richard Fisher  1960-61) 

We were aware he had been allowed to go on the Thresher’s test dive. We learned about the disaster when Shirley heard a news flash on the radio with no details. I was shaving while getting ready to go to work…..she rushed in to tell me. I rushed downtown to get a paper which confirmed our shock. Dick’s name was in the listing of those lost.


Student Memories:

(Photo: Mr. Fisher, far left, witht he Newmarket Hisgh School Physics Club, 1960. 

I was very fond of him and his loss was quite a blow.   I thought he was a terrific teacher!!!  He was my physics teacher during my senior year at NHS.    He was an upbeat easygoing presence in the classroom, and was very well liked and respected by his students.

I think a good example of how he connected with students is the message he wrote in my yearbook.  He taught us how to use the slide-rule and knew how much I loved using it.

I was so touched by his words, I’ve never forgotten them: ” May you slide along the path of success with greater ease than that with which your slide rule operated.  The coefficient of friction is very high.” I loved how he assumed I would be a success, wished me well and tied it together with something personal!!!                       — Karen (Nesbitt) Fitzmaurice                                                         



I would echo sentiments that he was great teacher and coach.   The one thing that I always remembered was his announcement that he was getting out of teaching “because the grass is a little greener at Portsmouth Navy Yard”.  

Perhaps it was just a going away saying but I thought that he really regretted leaving teaching but obviously had a family to feed.   Certainly teachers in the 60’s at NHS were not highly paid and we had gifted teachers because of the proximity to UNH. In addition to home room, I had him for General Science and a brief stint at JV Basketball.    He signed my yearbook with “Keep on the upswing”.   Always wondered what he meant about that.  

(photo: Larry Smith, NHS Class of 1964 at Korat Air Base, Thailand 1967)

All Published

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