Hugh Fleischer

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    - Carol Karlin
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Hugh William Fleischer, surrounded by his loving and beloved family, died October 9, 2013, from ALS. Hugh spent his life fighting for justice, fairness and equality for all people.

Hugh was born in Riverside, CA, August 14, 1938, to Helen Marie Bendorf Fleischer and Frederick John Fleischer. He moved to St. Louis, his parents' hometown, before he was a year old and grew up there, where he met his future wife, Lanie, in high school.

Hugh was a people's advocate since his undergraduate days at Washington University in St. Louis, where, as co-chair of the Campus Y he led that organization to the 1960 Chancellor's Award for its work on behalf of civil rights (equality in public accommodations) and disadvantaged youth.

After graduating 2nd in his class from Denver University Law School in 1964, Hugh served in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, working from 1964 to 1971 in the American South for voting rights, equal access to education, employment and public accommodations, as well as school desegregation cases in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. He received a "Sustained Superior Performance Award" from U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark in 1967, and he received a "Special Commendation for Outstanding Service in the Civil Rights Division" in 1968.

Hugh came to Alaska in 1971 to work with Alaska Legal Services on the pending Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act; afterward he worked with Native groups to help secure their rights within the context of the Settlement Act. From the moment he arrived, Hugh enthusiastically embraced everything about Alaska. He was proud of the fact that during his tenure with Alaska Legal Services and later, in private practice, he was able to work with villages in remote areas of the State. On behalf of Anaktuvik Pass, he argued against opening the North Slope Haul Road without protection for subsistence rights.

Since 1973, Hugh engaged in private civil law practice and in criminal defense. He worked with the Alaska Bar Association's Pro-Bono Program, representing many clients before various Alaska courts. For many years Hugh served as a public service lawyer for indigents appearing in federal courts as a Criminal Justice Act Alaska representative. His work on behalf of the disadvantaged and powerless was a continuing inspiration to those who worked with him, and those who knew him.

Hugh contributed consistently and meaningfully to the quality of life in Anchorage and Alaska. He was a founder, in 1974, of the volunteer Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) which works in consumer advocacy and citizens' rights. In 1996 he helped to found Alaskans Against the Death Penalty, which continues to work to educate Alaskans on the past discriminatory record of executions in Alaska. He was a volunteer at KSKA Public Radio in Anchorage, playing classical music every other Saturday morning for 10 years. He was also on the boards of: Friends of the Library, Planned Parenthood, Out North, Alaska's Independent Blind, Cyrano's Theater, and most recently, on the Board of Trustees for the Senior Activities Center. He traveled to Washington, D.C, to protest gun violence. For ten years he was a Compeer, a program that matches adults with mentally challenged people for activities and friendship - for example, he took the same man to lunch almost every Friday for more than ten years. In the 1970s he worked with other community leaders on the Committee for Two Newspapers to keep the Anchorage Daily News viable until a purchaser could be found.

Hugh received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 2008 in recognition of his civic achievements and contributions to Alaska. He received the Charlie Parr Lifetime Achievement Award from the ACLU of Alaska in 2010.

Hugh was famous for his huge tossed salads, love of good wine, a good party, dancing in the kitchen, his large book and music collection, and the pride and love he had for his children and grandchildren. He walked or biked to work, regardless of weather and was an enthusiastic skiing and hiking leader for his children and the many neighborhood kids who accompanied them. Many of those kids now credit Hugh for their continuing love of the outdoors.

Hugh is survived by his wife and soul mate of 53 years, Lanie Fleischer; his three children: daughters Robin Niemuth (Randy) and Erin Fleischer {Herzog}; son Ian William Fleischer (Kathy); Mike Herzog former son-in-law; five grandchildren: Nora, Margot and Satchel Herzog, Owen and Theo Fleischer; cousins Karen & Mel Lauer, Christopher Lauer and Katie Lauer. He leaves behind a vast patchwork of family, friends and acquaintances who loved him and stood with him in the unfinished campaign to give everyone a fair shake in the eyes of the law and who will miss him deeply.

A Memorial Service celebrating Hugh's life will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, at 5 p.m. at the Dena'ina Center with a pot luck reception following at the Anchorage Senior Activities Center.

Donations in Hugh's memory may be made to any of the myriad causes to which he devoted his time or any cause that one finds meaningful.

Published in Anchorage Daily News from Oct. 15 to Oct. 16, 2013
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