Don Fisher spent most of his life going to work just as everyone else was going to bed.
The longtime owner of Don's Bakery in Elk River, Fisher was there in the small hours of the morning, mixing dough and firing up the ovens to make fresh bread and bismarcks, long Johns and ladyfingers for the rush of morning customers.
A busy guy who didn't like to sit still, he spent his off hours working on vintage cars, taking the shell of a 1948 Mercury convertible and lovingly restoring it.
Then came the day in September when he was sitting in the living room watching TV, and his wife, Carol, sensed something was wrong.
"That's just not Don," she said. Feeling lightheaded, he uncharacteristically fell. A few days later, he fell again.
An ambulance brought Fisher to the emergency room. The medical staff first thought he was having heart issues, but a scan of his lungs showed serious problems, and a COVID-19 test confirmed the diagnosis. Fisher spent a month at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids but never recovered, and died Oct. 12. He was 78.
"I kept waiting for him to call and say, 'Come pick me up,' " said Carol, who couldn't visit the hospital at first because she was quarantined; she had tested positive, though asymptomatic.
A sometime practical joker who enjoyed a good laugh, Fisher was a longtime member of the Minnesota Street Rod Association. On drives through the countryside, he would stop when he saw an old car to see if it was for sale. "He could talk to anybody, even if he had just met them for the first time," his wife said.
After graduating from high school in Clarissa, Minn., Fisher studied baking at Dunwoody Institute. He worked for bakeries in Rockford and Winsted before buying his own place in 1970 in Elk River.
His first night at the new bakery began with a prayer, Carol said. "He just stood at the bench, ready to start, and said, 'I pray to God. I don't know what I'm doing. Lead me in what I'm doing.' "
"I guess it went pretty well after that," she said.
Don's Bakery was known for its round cinnamon bread and for the ladyfingers, a sweet dough creation filled with powdered sugar, shortening, whipped cream and vanilla. The couple ran the bakery for 32 years before retiring in 2003.
In retirement, Fisher had more time to work on cars and spent summers at Lake Osakis in one of several lake homes they owned over the years. He is survived by four children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with a fifth expected in February. "We were very blessed," said Carol.
Services have been held.