PORT CHARLOTTE — Charlotte County’s first board-certified surgeon and the founder of Fawcett Memorial Hospital has died.
Dr. Fred Paul Nisi, 93, was at home surrounded by family when he died on Jan. 4. He had founded Fawcett Memorial Hospital in 1975 and before that was the chief of staff with Bon Secours St. Joseph Hospital, which is now Bayfront Health Port Charlotte.
“We honor and cherish the life of a beloved man whose vision has brought improvement to human life among the members of our community,” said Fawcett CEO Bill Hawley. “His spirit will live on with us as we work to fulfill the mission of Fawcett Memorial Hospital.”
Fred Paul Nisi was born Oct. 13, 1926, in Muskegon, Michigan. He was the son of Raffaele Nisi and Augusta Nicolette, immigrants from Italy. He served with the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946. In 1949, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame first in his class with a bachelor’s degree in medical science, and in 1953 graduated second in his class from Georgetown University School of Medicine.
One of Nisi’s six daughters, Paula Cordes, remembers her father as a proud, humble man. He didn’t talk a lot about what he did for the community, and when he did, he said it was a team effort. “He was trying to give credit to everyone ... he didn’t want to brag on himself.”
“He went above and beyond what a regular physician would do,” Cordes said. “He was truly in it to help.”
Dr. Nisi’s generosity as a doctor even inspired one of his daughters, Cynthia Yount, to go into the medical field as a nurse.
“He was the doctor of the community,” Yount said. “He did so much for Port Charlotte.”
Dr. Nisi was the son of Italian immigrants.
“They had nothing,” his daughter, Anita Pruschen, said of her father’s beginnings. “They didn’t speak the language very well, but they were able to put him in a Catholic school.” He later served with the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1949.
“When people turned their doors and wouldn’t treat them, (he’d) open his doors and they remember that,” Cordes told the Sun. “He was just being a godly man ... he helped the people who needed the help.”
“He was just a good man,” Pruschen agreed. “He just always tried to do the best for everyone.”
Dr. Nisi was a devout Catholic, praying the rosary constantly and passing down his faith to his family, which consisted of six daughters: Yount, Pruschen, Cordes, Melinda Coonrod, Donna Nisi and Lisa Mrha; and a son, Mark Nisi.
His wife, June Ann Nisi, died in 2017.
“Whenever I was faced with important decisions in my life, I asked myself what decision would make my father most proud,” said Coonrod. “He was that kind of man. Smart, wise, and a father who would always try to do the right thing.”
“He was a quiet, gentle man. He loved to laugh, loved to tell jokes. He was always trying to lighten the mood,” Cordes said.
Cordes does remember her father being gone a lot to care for patients. During summer vacations, though, Dr. Nisi would drive his family in a camper to the mountains in North Carolina. He was also an original member of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church for 60 years.
When Pruschen was diagnosed with cancer as a kid, Dr. Nisi would take her to the Shell Factory in Fort Myers or other fun activities after radiation or chemotherapy treatments. And as a founder of Chapel Manor Nursing Home, he would take his daughters to volunteer, putting on puppet shows and dancing for the patients.
“We weren’t good, but he thought it was great,” Yount said, laughing.
On Christmases, he would tell the kids they just missed Santa Claus and drive them around to go find the big man in red while his wife finished getting the presents under the tree.
Dr. Nisi would play on the softball team, Cordes said, and coach girls basketball. He played golf and would buy property and “try to make something of the land,” she said.
“His laugh was infectious, his hugs warm, and his eyes kind,” his obituary states.
And he would often impart some of his own wisdom: “May you live well, laugh often, and love much.”
A funeral Mass celebrating Dr. Nisi is planned for 11 a.m. Jan. 24 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 2500 Easy St. in Port Charlotte, followed by committal with military honors in St. Charles Memorial Garden. To send condolences to the family, visit www.robersonfh.com.