Rita Fisher

GMHC Mourns the Loss of Top AIDS Walk New York Fundraiser Rita Fischer

GMHC lost one of our most passionate supporters on April 22, 2021, when Rita Fischer passed away at the age of 97.

Fischer participated in nearly every AIDS Walk New York (AWNY) since 1986, raising in total more than $1.3 million. AWNY is GMHC’s largest annual fundraiser.

“We have lost a woman, mother, and advocate of towering strength, compassion, and leadership,” said Kelsey Louie, GMHC CEO and Craig Miller, founder of AWNY, in a joint statement. “We say goodbye to our fiercest lioness who will live on through the steps we take in the trail she blazed.”

Donna Aceto, an award-winning photographer, chronicled Rita’s participation in AWNY since 1991. Over the years, she took hundreds of photos of Fischer. “She was very funny and so much fun,” recalled Aceto. “She radiated ‘New York Jewish Mother.’ That’s why many of us called her ‘Mamasita.’ She had a heart as big as Central Park.”

In addition to her fundraising for AWNY, Fischer was an “an impassioned activist for LGBTQ causes” and volunteered for PFLAG. In 2014, she and her son Jay Fischer were interviewed on NPR’s Tell Me More when they spoke about Jay’s coming out to Rita in the 1980s. The full Story Corps interview can be accessed here (https://storycorps.org/stories/rita-fischer-and-jay-fischer/).

Photo caption: Participants at AIDS Walk New York 2014 celebrate Rita Fischer’s extraordinary fundraising achievement.


After 40 years, we’re still fighting for those living with HIV and AIDS. Honor those we’ve lost. Support those who are still here.