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Woman injured in deadly Orange home invasion dies

  • 581 East River St. in Orange where Thomas Harty, 95, was killed in a home invasion Oct. 5 and his wife, 77-year-old Joanna Fisher, was seriously wounded. Fisher died Nov. 10.

  • JOANNA FISHER



Recorder Staff
Saturday, November 19, 2016

ORANGE – Joanna Fisher, the woman wounded during the Oct. 5 home invasion in which her husband was murdered, died Thursday morning at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, according to a death notice from Witty’s Funeral Home. She was 77.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Witty’s Funeral Home.

On Oct. 6, a home invasion was discovered at the 581 East River St. home Fisher shared with her 95-year-old husband, Thomas A. Harty. Fisher was transported to UMass Memorial for treatment of throat wounds. Her son, Jerry Fisher, of Orange, said his mother died due to complications related to the injuries sustained during the home invasion.

Joanna Fisher and Harty were attacked with a knife and left by the home invaders who stole the couple’s car, according to earlier reports.

Larry Fisher said his mother will be most remembered for her generosity.

“She would give anything to anybody in the community,” he said, adding that his mother stayed active even after a stroke three and a half years ago, which left her in need of a wheelchair.

Larry Fisher said his mother was involved with founding Valuing Our Children, an organization dedicated to addressing the needs of youngsters, the Pioneer Junior Women’s Club, and The Oracle, a now-defunct volunteer weekly newspaper in Orange.

He said she was born in New Haven, Conn., and graduated from East Haven High School in 1957. He said she met Harty  about 1980 through their passion for hiking, and the two got married on Jan. 30, 1998.

Kathleen Koonz, one of Joanna Fisher’s daughters, said her mother was an elementary school aide when the family moved to the area in 1970 and her mother loved working with young people.

“Her work with children was really special to her and looking out for their welfare was a very big part of what she did,” said Koonz, of Orange. “Mom just had a positive outlook on life, even through struggles, and that’s something that really stood out to people.

“She really made me a better person with her positive outlook, and I try to emulate that,” Koonz continued.

Fisher was named the sixth recipient of the Barbara Corey Award by the North Quabbin Community Coalition at its annual luncheon in 2003. The coalition’s most prestigious award honors a person who has made a significant impact on the quality of life in North Quabbin.

“She engaged people and kept them involved by her great enthusiasm, close attention to their individual needs, tenacity and creativity,” NQCC Coordinator Rebecca Bialecki said of Fisher in 2003.

At that time, Fisher was working for the North Quabbin Adult Education Center as a teacher and family advocate for teen parents in the Even Start Program.

An open house celebration of Harty’s life is planned for Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., at Hartman’s Herb Farm at 1026 Old Dana Road in Barre, Harty’s hometown. People can offer their sympathy at www.wittyfuneralhome.com.

A fund was started at the TD Bank in Athol to help Fisher and her family with the expenses of her medical care. Koonz said there are still bills from her mother’s treatment. Contributions can be submitted to The Joanna Fisher Fund, c/o TD Bank, 2156 Main Street, Athol, MA 01331.

According to Jeffrey Cole of Witty’s Funeral Home, which is handling the funeral, someone had been calling people to solicit donations for Fisher and asking for credit card numbers. Cole said Harty’s family members have said this is a scam.

Joshua Hart, 23, and Brittany Smith, 27, both of Athol, were arrested in Virginia after the home invasion and were arraigned in Orange District Court on Oct. 14. Both Hart and Smith were charged with murder, attempted murder, home invasion, armed robbery, conspiracy, larceny over $250, larceny of a motor vehicle, and receiving stolen property. The defendants face a mandatory sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole on the charge of murder.

Mary Carey, spokeswoman for the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, said the office had no comment when asked if Fisher’s death will alter the charges facing Hart and Smith.

Koonz said she has marveled at the community’s response to the Oct. 5 home invasion.

“It’s been wonderful. Everyone is so supportive,” she said. “Even people that I don’t know are just so supportive of our whole family. It’s been really, really nice.”

You can reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 258. On Twitter: @DomenicPoli