BY LEWIS LONG
Many people know the name of Bert Fish from the many streets and buildings that commemorate him, but there aren’t many who take the time to learn of the man, and the friend, behind the name.
The Long family of Lake Helen had the honor of knowing the man who inscribed at the bottom of his photo the words: “To my Friends Minerva & Lewis Long, Bert Fish; American Minister to Egypt. Cairo — Dec. 25 – 1938.”
In West Volusia, Bert Fish was superintendent of the school system before becoming an attorney, judge, then American diplomat who served as ambassador to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and, for a short time before his death in 1943, Portugal.
Bert Fish, or “Judge Fish” as he was often called, was never one to stray from a friend in need. When Minerva Bond Long’s cousins George and Mary Bond decided to run away from their boarding school in Switzerland, their mother, Louise Bond, had to call upon their good friend Judge Fish to assist the family in finding the wayward children.
With Bert Fish’s assistance, she was able to track the youngsters to a port. After a proper scolding, Louise Bond arranged for their passage to the U.S., but not before taking the opportunity to take a grand tour of Europe together, including Russia.
With some continued supervision, both George and Mary Bond grew up to be fine members of the community. George F. Bond became a country doctor in Bat Cave, North Carolina, and there founded the first community clinic in the United States in an abandoned schoolhouse. He later became the Navy medical officer who pioneered the Sealab project that proved man could live on the ocean floor for unlimited periods of time.
Mary Bond married James Smyth in North Carolina, where James Smyth ran the Kimberly-Clark paper plant in Smythville. Bert Fish’s legacy is one that runs through every street of Volusia County, and his kindness and friendship have not been forgotten.
The photo signed by Fish is being donated by the Long family to the duPont-Ball Library at Stetson University, via Sue Ryan, the head librarian. She will be putting the photo on display in the library’s Bert Fish room.
— Long is a retired U.S. Air Force chaplain. He lives in Lake Helen with his wife, Caryn.