Merle J. (Pete) Fiske, 87, of Brasher Falls, passed away peacefully on January 14th at home, surrounded by his loving family. Pete was born in Parishville, NY, to Merle and Julia (Flint) Fiske on August 1, 1930. He grew up helping to run his mother and father’s country store but loved animals and always knew he wanted to be a farmer, getting his first Jersey calf as a young boy. A large flock of hens soon followed, housed in a barn his oldest brother helped him build. Always an entrepreneur and savvy businessman, he was shipping eggs to Boston before he was even in high school, a venture that whetted his appetite to be self employed.
An independent-minded and self-confident boy, he announced to his mother at a very young age that he would no longer be known as “Little Merle,” and should henceforth be called “Pete.“ Though the only child of his parents’ union, he grew up in a happy, blended family, surrounded by six older, doting siblings, the children of his parents’ first marriages.
He attended Parishville-Hopkinton High School, making the varsity baseball team in 8th grade, playing shortstop. He graduated in 1948 as valedictorian of his class and continued his education at Canton Agriculture and Technical Institute, where he majored in poultry science and was captain of the college baseball team.
Shortly after graduation from college, and upon the death of his father, he and his mother took over running his family’s store on Route 11B between Potsdam and Hopkinton. On November 4th, 1950, in the Methodist church in Potsdam, NY, he married Lila Monica, daughter of Eddie and Dorothy Monica of Nicholville, NY. They had met at the start of 9th grade, when Lila first enrolled as a new student at his school, and he often said that he knew he would marry her the first time he saw her.
He was drafted into the Army in 1952, during the Korean War, and was stationed for two years in Erlangen, Germany as part of the postwar Allied occupation forces. He achieved the rank of Corporal and served as a driver and surveyor with an artillery battery of the U.S. Seventh Army. After he was honorably discharged in 1954, he and his wife purchased a former dairy farm in Brasher Falls, which they developed into a commercial poultry farm, while also raising a large flock of sheep. As a young man, he continued to play baseball for various town teams, and for many years afterwards, former teammates and competitors would remark what a great shortstop he had been, something of which he was always very proud.
While establishing his farm, he also worked as a surveyor on the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and later worked for a time at Reynolds Metals in Massena. He sold eggs commercially to many stores, restaurants, hospitals and wholesalers in the area, managing a weekly delivery route by himself. He was an early and ongoing supporter of Tri-Town Minor Hockey, both financially and as a parent of three sons who all played the sport. He rarely missed a son’s game, and he frequently drove players to games near and far across northern New York and into Canada.
With the help of his wife and three sons, he also raised corn and other crops and operated a two-acre, pick-your-own strawberry field up until the 1980s. He worked for several years as a substitute rural letter carrier in North Lawrence, while continuing to farm, and ended poultry farming in the late 1980s to become a full-time rural letter carrier in Brasher Falls, retiring from the U.S. Postal Service in 1996. Long after retirement, he continued to garden and to raise sheep, maintaining a flock of 80 to 100 head well into his 80s, aided by his capable llama Carlos.
He enjoyed trout fishing, vegetable gardening, reading and sports, and he especially enjoyed following Saint Lawrence Men’s Hockey, he and his wife Lila receiving the Friend of the Year Award in 2010 from the Friends of St. Lawrence Hockey. He was particularly fond of dogs, and had a series of loyal canine companions throughout his life, including his boyhood German Shepherd “Ace,” a few Cocker Spaniels, a Border Collie, a Beagle, three Lhasa Apsos, and later in life, a series of three Doberman Pinschers. He was gregarious by nature and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances from all walks of life. A great raconteur, he was able to see the humor in daily life, and he loved a good story.
He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Lila, and their three sons: Kevin of Winthrop, NY; Kelly of Interlaken, NY; and Kyle of Rockport, MA; as well as by his grandchildren Emily (Todd) Kimble of Waddington, NY, and Andrew Fiske, of Winthrop; and by several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents and by his sisters Beulah (Peggy) Fiske, Adelaide Campbell, and Edwina Elek, and by his brothers Bob Dougan, Bill Dougan and Tom Dougan.
Calling hours will be held Wednesday, January 17th, between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. at the Hammill Funeral Home in Winthrop, with funeral services held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley, Potsdam, NY, or to the Tri-Town Rescue Squad.