Hal Fischer, who along with his wife, Sharon, helped to recruit Chuck Smith as Pastor of Calvary Chapel, passed onto his “Eternal Reward” almost a year ago. Now his loving wife remembers her life without Hal.
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
YORBA LINDA, CA (ANS – September 15, 2017) – It was on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, when former California Police Chief, Hal Fischer, who along with his wife, Sharon, helped to recruit Chuck Smith as the pastor of the then recently-formed Calvary Chapel, died at around 10 AM.
Chief Fischer passed away at his home in Yorba Linda, California, with wife Sharon, and other family members and friends at his side, after suffering for a period from a lot of pain.
At the time, Dave Rolph, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills, California, paid tribute to his friend on Facebook, saying, “Hal Fischer was one of the best men I’ve ever known in my life. He went to heaven this morning. Hal was an important part of my life for most of my adult life. He always believed in me and prayed for me, even when no one else did.
“Hal was on the church board at Calvary Chapel when they first hired Pastor Chuck, and he was a faithful friend to Chuck ever since. Hal will be sorely missed but he wanted to go to heaven in the worst way and I’m happy for him, but heartbroken for us.
“Every Sunday morning, he would text me after my first service after he listened to it on the radio. He was such an encouragement to me and Sunday’s will never be the same. I love you Hal!”
His wife, Sharon, has now shared with me about what it has been like since he left this earth.
“Living life without Hal was surreal, like walking through a dream,” she said. “After his memorial service, I just put one foot in front of the other following the detailed instructions he left me in an envelope marked, ‘What to do when I’m gone.’
“Obediently, I made all the necessary phone calls, I learned on-line banking, and family and friends helped and encouraged me. I also learned to depend on the Lord as I never had before.”
Sharon revealed that holidays were the “hardest time” for her with “the inevitable firsts,” such as Thanksgiving, their wedding anniversary, her first Christmas without him, first Valentine’s Day and the big one, “what would have been Hal’s 81st birthday.”
She went onto say, “What got me through was the knowledge that Hal is finally without pain and he is happier and more alive than he’s ever been, and he is with the Lord that he loved and served.
“How I missed him and was torn between the knowledge that he is so happy and at peace and the sadness and loss that I felt. I also knew that I had to move forward so I accepted an invitation to go with cousins to a desert vacation spot. I also knew Hal would have wanted me to go. He always wanted me to travel.
“Later in the summer, I went to my family in Canada, making my way through airports and customs by myself. I can’t say enough about family and friends who have been such a help and encouragement through this difficult journey that no one wants to take.”
Sharon concluded by saying, “Most of all, God is so faithful, and has held my hand through it all, yes, throughout our marriage of almost 62 years and, finally, through learning how to live without him.”
How Calvary Chapel first began
The birth of that first Calvary Chapel, now known as Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, that has now grown into worldwide movement of around 1,600 churches, began more than 50 years ago in a humble way when Hal and Sharon Gardner Fischer, along with a few friends, gathered for the first time in a humble trailer park recreation room on Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, California.
“We stood on the threshold — the enormity of what was before us we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams. ‘The Lord was in this place, and we didn’t know it’ –– this could have been said of the ten or twelve people who gathered that first Sunday on a spring morning in 1961,” wrote Sharon Gardner Fischer in her book, “I Remember… The Birth of Calvary Chapel.” (https://www.amazon.com/I-Remember-Birth-Calvary-Chapel/dp/B01HVGVS92).
They later moved to another facility in Costa Mesa, and in a moving tribute to “Pastor Chuck” for ANS, following his death on October 3, 2013, Sharon gave more information on those early days.
She first talked about “This man, whose beautiful smile my husband Hal, and I, first encountered…appeared before a small congregation in a little church on Church Street, Costa Mesa, California, called Calvary Chapel. There were only about 50 of us, and during a time of dissention when things were not going well for us, the board of trustees arranged for interim pastors to take the pulpit. After several men, some of them professors from what is now Vanguard University, filled the pulpit, we heard about a man whom we were encouraged to invite to speak.
“Chuck arrived, and we heard the Bible taught in such a simple yet profound way that we were in awe of how God’s love was being revealed to us. It was a new way — different from anything we had heard for most of our lives, having been raised in denominational churches. Chuck Smith’s teaching was what we had been yearning for but hadn’t been able to describe. We knew that what we had just heard was exactly what we’d been longing for.
“The board was convinced that this was a man sent from God, so the next step was to take it to the congregation for a vote. In November of 1965, Pastor Chuck Smith was unanimously voted in as our pastor. He moved his family from Corona — his wife, Kay, their sons, Chuck Jr., and Jeff, and their daughters, Janette and Cheryl. He held his first service on Sunday, December 5, 1965.
“We soon learned that we would be studying the Bible from cover-to-cover, beginning in Genesis and reading 10 chapters a week for our homework. The Sunday morning topic was taken from these 10 chapters, and the evening service was an in-depth study, verse by verse. We all began to bring our Bibles to church, and we entered the New Year with much anticipation and excitement. We had never heard the Bible taught like this before!
“The church began to grow exponentially and soon thousands from every walk of life would be joining us, taking notes and underlining scripture verses. The body of Christ was being armed spiritually, and the many thousands to follow would tell others what they had learned. The news of the Gospel was being spread across our nation by this first generation of Calvary Chapel believers because they had been well taught by this pastor/teacher.”
She went on to say, “Chuck Smith was not one to take life easy. Besides the five weekly church services, he also held home Bible studies. In those early days, he was the first to come to the aid of anyone in the congregation who needed help. He would roll up his sleeves and get under the hood to fix a car for someone who couldn’t afford a mechanic. He helped to pour a patio and to replace a water heater in one couple’s home, and he helped to rewire another home. He was always ready — pushing a broom or using a pick and shovel to help renovate the newly purchased conference centers.
“On a napkin in a restaurant he drew out the plans to remodel the platform of the little chapel on Church Street. The year progressed with Pastor Chuck calling for special workdays to keep our church in good repair.
“As we look back at the phenomenal growth of Calvary Chapel, I still remember the first hippie kids who flooded through the doors. They had finally found a church that would accept them and love them and a pastor and his wife who had a heart for this lost generation. They filled the churches that we outgrew and then the tent to overflowing as they sat, mesmerized, being taught by this balding guy in his early 40s, who explained God’s Word like a loving father. In fact, for many he became the father they had never known, and it wasn’t long before he was referred to as ‘Papa Chuck.’”
She went on to write, “I am listening to KWVE (www.kwve.com) in the background as I write, and I’m hearing Pastor Chuck singing, “The Love of God,” — his rich baritone voice belting out the words that I remember him singing so long ago before a Sunday morning service. My mind and heart are filled with memories of the times we spent together after Sunday services, going out to lunch with anyone who wanted to come. After lunch, Chuck would take our twins and the other children down to See’s Candies and buy them suckers.
“In the coming years, our children and grandchildren were baptized along with many hundreds down at little Corona by their friend, Pastor Chuck, as he stood in the water, baptizing one after another for hours on end. Our son, Lonnie, posted on Facebook his memories of knowing Chuck all of his life — he was only 10 months old when Chuck came and was 10 years old when Chuck baptized him. Lonnie said, ‘I can hear Pastor Chuck saying to me now, with that big smile and that chuckle that he gave me every time he would see me, ‘Ha ha, Lon. ALL Right…I’M GOING TO HANG OUT IN HEAVEN, MAN!’
“For my family, Hal, Terri Ann, Lynnette, and Lonnie, I can say, “Hey, Chuck, soon and very soon, we will be hanging out in heaven with you and with Jesus, whom you taught us to love.”
After his passing, many wondered what Hal Fischer’s first words were when he met up with Pastor Chuck in heaven. They will sure have a lot of reminiscing to do.
Besides his untiring work for many years as a board member of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Hal Fischer had a distinguished career in law enforcement. It included: Chief of Police, Placentia Police Department, Placentia, CA 9 years; Chief of Police, Marysville Police Department, Marysville, CA 3 years, and a Lieutenant of Police, Costa Mesa Police Department, Costa Mesa, CA 20 years.
Hal and Sharon were regular guests on my radio and TV shows, and I was always impressed with their humility and love for the Lord.
And finally, right up until the end, Hal would post a beautiful daily illustrated scripture verse, and Sharon announced that their son, Lonnie, would continue his father’s labor-of-love. It is a wonderful way to honor a great man who humbly influenced the lives of so many that he came in touch with, including myself.
Photo captions: 1) Hal and Sharon Gardner Fischer. 2) Picture of Police Chief Hal Fischer on cover of publication at his memorial service 3) Hal and Sharon with Pastor Chuck Smith. 4) Sharon with a copy of her book about the early days of Calvary Chapel. 5) Chuck Smith speaking at a baptism at Pirate’s Cove in Corona del Mar, California. 6) Dan Wooding interviewing Hal and Sharon Fischer on one of his television shows.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist, who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. Dan now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of numerous books. He has a radio show and two television programs, all based in Southern California.
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