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Missing Boater Recalled Fondly

Richard Fiske of Woodbridge was a good man, friends say.

Good family man. Successful business owner. One of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet.

Those are the words being used to describe Richard “Dick” Fiske, a 75-year-old Woodbridge man who is believed to have drowned after his on the Housatonic River near the Oxford-Seymour line.

“I saw him on Sunday as he was leaving the gym, and he made a point of coming back in to say hello to me and ask about my family,” said Jill Schaefer, a friend for 25 years who worked out with Fiske in Woodbridge at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven. “He had such an incredible, upbeat personality and always cared to listen to what you had to say. I’m just heartbroken.”

Similar sentiments were expressed in conversation and online condolences under news reports that said Connecticut investigators are scouring the Housatonic for miles searching for Fiske, a member of the New Haven Rowing Club who checked out a scull boat from the club at 10:30 a.m. Monday and hasn’t been seen since. Emergency crews have searched for him since someone reported seeing a capsized scull boat on the river near the club at 2 p.m. that day.

State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials said Fiske could probably only have survived for about nine hours in 45-degree water – the temperature it was on Monday evening. Fiske has been missing for at least 90 hours, and the search is now considered a recovery mission rather than a rescue operation.

Fiske, who spent many years as a resident of Cheshire where he is principal of a development company called Ravenswood Homes, is widely considered a top-notch housing developer. His company, of which is son is the president, is responsible for many upscale housing developments in Bethany, Cheshire, Hamden, North Haven, Portland, Rocky Hill and Wallingford. The company also developed a successful commercial strip in Cheshire that is home to big name retailers such as Staples and Pier 1. The company’s website states that it has developed more than 2,500 homes in Connecticut since 1963.

Though some have expressed conspiracy theories that Fiske may have faked drowning in an attempt to get away from his daily life – similar to situations that have happened in the past - DEEP officials said there is no way that would have happened. Capt. Raul Camejo of the Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police attempted to put all of that talk to rest on Wednesday and said that is not even a consideration at this point.

“This is a family man,” Camejo said. “Through this investigation, we’ve gotten to know the family and from all indications, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a good family man. He is somewhere in that river.”

The goal for DEEP and state police is to bring Fiske’s body ashore to help bring closure to his family. The search was called off for the evening when it got dark on Wednesday but is continuing this morning. Camejo said DEEP officials will search for Fiske until they find him, regardless of how long it takes.

Schaefer, who said Fiske worked out religiously and never had any health problems that she knew of, said Fiske’s wife is “absolutely wonderful,” too.

“My heart goes out to the family,” she said. “There aren’t enough words to describe what an absolutely wonderful man he was.”

Craig Zac December 02, 2011 at 03:30 PM
cant they cut off the floe of water at the Stevenson Dam for a little while to make the search a bit easier? either that or maybe start searching way down river, maybe he is past derby someplace.

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