Long-time Davis resident Stanley Jerome (Jerry) Fishman passed away at age 84 on Saturday, February 24. His oldest son, Wendell, was with him as he took his final breaths. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jerry and his wife Sylvia settled in Davis CA in 1965, where they raised their two sons. For the past year, Jerry had been ill and struggling with an assortment of serious health issues.
Teacher, father, writer, novelist, poet, playwright, lover of life, defender of truth, and craving all things zesty and new, Jerry Fishman touched many lives. He was a warrior for peace, and a tireless activist who called out injustice wherever he saw it. He and his wife Sylvia blazed a trail, forging an interracial marriage in 1961, at a time when it was still illegal in parts of the country.
One of his proudest achievements was that, with his wife Sylvia, they raised two sons, Wendell and Darwin, who were strong enough to love others, and to allow themselves to be loved. Both sons follow in their father’s footsteps, working as professors in colleges. During their 52 years of blissful and adventuresome marriage, Jerry and Sylvia, also hosted legendary gatherings in their 910 Pennsylvania place home. They loved to bring people together and whether it was for a dinner party, a town-hall political discussion, a cocktail hour, a Christmas-Hanukkah or Passover-Easter Celebration, movie night, or even a guest speaker, Jerry and Sylvia loved to bring people together for conversation, ceremony and conviviality. Jerry’s extended family included his ‘adopted’ sister Helene Goodwin and her family, as well as Sylvia’s ‘adopted’ brother, Fred Perry.
He taught English and critical thinking for some 34 years at Sacramento City College. Professor Fishman helped to usher in the first Black Literature classes at City College, as well as the Community 1A class that became a model for how to offer students the opportunity to critically engage in their communities. Upon retirement he taught another dozen years at many of the other community colleges in the area, including Yuba College, Woodland, and Sierra College, Rocklin. He loved to “stir up people’s minds” and invite them to think in ways they may not have previously contemplated. After his days of teaching, Jerry continued reaching out to others, making new friends and bringing people together.
Jerry Fishman was a world traveler, taking trips with family, friends, or even solo. He had visited nearly 50 countries including visiting over 20 countries in Europe, 10 countries in Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Thailand and Japan. One of his favorite countries was Denmark and he and the Fishman family lived there for a year. London was another favorite destination which he knew well. Later on in life he liked going to Denver, Chicago, New York, and Toronto for world renown plays. Art galleries, museums, cafes and even private homes were also part of Jerry’s quest to fully imbibe any and all art. Theatre was his favorite. He would see two plays in a day if he could arrange it. There was a time when he drove up to Ashland Oregon repeatedly to be sure he saw every play they put on for their season. When he would take his trips to London he was in heaven as he sampled plays and art in the world’s great theatres and museums. While stateside, he loved to zip down to San Francisco and Berkeley weekly to see Independent movies, the art museums and the symphony. He took great delight in exposing his friends and loved ones to the great art of the world and the world-class symphony music which he so loved. He loved to look at and make all kinds of art, but his favorite was modern art.
In addition to taking in art and culture, Jerry was an avid creator of art and literature. He wrote novels, short stories, plays, and countless poems. He loved to read his original poetry in Sacramento, Winters, and Davis, participating in poetry readings whenever and wherever he could.
Jerry Fishman was an activist. He marched. He protested. He sent out thousands of copies of articles and essays, written by himself and others. He wanted the whole world to wake and shout for justice. Jerry was committed to political activism and guided by deeply held spiritual and moral convictions. Even though Jerry described himself as a Secular Humanist and he was extremely well versed in world religions and history. His experience growing up in a Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood and having a father in the Communist Party had an everlasting impact on his world view and values. Though he was a fierce and principled advocate for fighting for what is right and good, he also always kept his sense of humor, and sense of play and fun. Jerry was comfortable being the first on the dance floor and setting new trends with words and deeds.
After his beloved wife Sylvia died, Jerry had the good fortune of meeting and falling in love with Mary Delfin, who would be his companion for the last four years of his life. She had lost her husband; Jerry had lost his wife, and the two of them brought one another great happiness, sharing the symphony, art, music, and travel.
He is survived by his sons Wendell (and his wife Ruby), of Elk Grove, and Darwin (and his partner, Buki and her four children- Justin, Sven, Adelbert, and Joel) of San Diego. His girlfriend of four years, Maria Delfin, also survives him, as do many dear friends, too many to count, who each knew Jerry as a very special person, and a good friend. Jerry was a deep thinker, the likes of which this world will not soon see again.
A viewing will be held on Saturday, March 3, 2018 from 10:30-1:30 at Smith Funeral Home in Davis, CA. A Celebration of Life will follow from 2-5pm at the Friends Meetinghouse at 345 L Street, Davis.