Earlier this year, Linda Fischer was so ill from cancer that doctors discharged her from the hospital to go to a hospice. Though she and her mother were optimistic about her release, a nurse confided to a longtime friend that "people don't go home from hospice with cancer that advanced."
Ms. Fischer, a member of the second violin section of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, not only requested her violin be brought to her in hospice, but she practiced there. And she not only was discharged from hospice, she was out and about attending symphony performances this summer.
Ms. Fischer, of Squirrel Hill, died Monday. She was 56.
"She was the most positive person I think any of us have ever met," said her longtime friend Alison Fujito, a fellow symphony violinist. "She was always smiling."
Members of the symphony recalled Ms. Fischer showing up to work during chemo treatments wearing brightly colored green and orange wigs. Her smile was infectious, they say, as was her spirit and her love for music.
"Her love for music was profound and her playing was sublime," said Jim Rodgers, the symphony's contrabassoonist. "When you watched her play, you could tell that she was loving every minute of it."
Ms. Fischer was born in Pittsburgh into a musical family. Her father, Richard, played viola for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and her mother, Ruth, and sister, Janice, both played the cello. At times, they formed a family quartet.
Mr. Fischer's musical career took the family away from Pittsburgh, to places such as New Mexico and Indiana. Ms. Fischer attended high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts and college at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, where she later funded a scholarship for young violinists. As a child she played piano, violin and viola.
She joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1985 after performing with the Buffalo Philharmonic.
Ms. Fischer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and underwent surgery and radiation. She served as a mentor and supporter for other women in the symphony who were later diagnosed with breast cancer, said viola player Penny Brill, also a breast cancer survivor.
Seven years later, Ms. Fischer was diagnosed with liver and brain cancer, for which she underwent gamma knife therapy and chemotherapy.
"The prognosis was terrible and it was amazing what she made of that time," said Ms. Brill. "She won a competition and played a recital -- it was amazing."
In addition to her work with the Pittsburgh Symphony, she served as a concertmistress and a soloist with the Jewish Community Center Orchestra. She also appeared as a guest concertmaster with the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra and spent a considerable amount of time as violin coach for the Pittsburgh Symphony Youth Orchestra.
She is survived by her mother, Ruth Fischer, with whom she lived in Squirrel Hill. The family will hold a private memorial service.
Anya Sostek: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1308.