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Bob Fishback

                              by Terry Nielsen                              


Over the years, many terrific tennis   names  have come out of Brookings, SD.    First Lefty Johnson, then Buck Shane, Jim and  Lu Holwerda,  Marty Johnson and Sherwood Hatch,  to name a few;   all members of the SD Tennis Hall of Fame.

Add the name Bob Fishback to that tennis list,   as   an inductee for 2014 into the SD Tennis Hall of Fame.  Bob is being recognized for his love of the game and his many contributions to grow tennis, especially in the university town of Brookings.

Jim   Holwerda,   one of the toughest tennis competitors to ever step on a court in SD, credits   Bob for being the game changer for Brookings tennis facilities, known across the state for its beautiful Hillcrest Courts.  

 Hatch said:  “those courts at Hillcrest Park, built in the 1970’s,   are   there because of the financial assistance of Bob.  He donated the matching funds offered by a federal grant.  And later, when something was needed…..court resurfacing, landscaping…Bob would work quietly behind the scenes to help secure the needed improvements.”

Bob’s personal   tennis story actually was re-ignited when he was in his mid 20’s and returned to Brookings to enter the banking business with his father Horace, Jr.   Bob, a 1954 Brookings High grad, had played prep football and basketball, along with American Legion baseball.  He attended   Oberlin College in Ohio where he played both football and basketball, then earned a masters in business finance from the University of Chicago.

Bob said he used to play on the clay courts at Pioneer Park in Brookings as a youngster.  As an adult, Bob’s   friendship   with Lefty and Buck Shane helped to hone his game, mostly on the MacDougal courts next to the ROTC building on the campus of South Dakota State.  “We played almost daily with a few other tennis enthusiasts,” said Bob.

Bob assisted Lefty in running the SD Closed and even chimed in helping with some lessons.  Probably inspired by Bob’s revitalized dedication to the game, his father (who played tennis collegiately at Carleton and Dartmouth)   decided to build a court behind the family residence. 

“All   our three generations and many friends have enjoyed it for years.” said Bob, “Soon it became important because the Closed draw was too large for the public courts.  We often played the senior division on our family court.”


Bob   has played in tournaments throughout the Dakotas and recalls a memorable win at the Red River in Fargo in doubles, pairing with Lefty Johnson.  His memories of playing at McKennan Park in Sioux Falls and the kinship of fellow tennis players was one of the many reasons he said “yes”  when Holwerda took over  the Brookings city tennis recreation program and a planning committee was formed to build Hillcrest.  Bob thought it was important that Brookings did its part in providing a first class tennis venue for all of SD to enjoy.

“I have enjoyed tennis for many years and delight in playing and knowing other tennis enthusiasts.  It is not only the game but the relationships which I value, whether it was local players like Lefty and Marty Johnson, Jim and Lu Holwerda, Sherwood and Ginny Hatch, Phil Baker or fellow players across the state.  I’ll name just a few, but there are many who have contributed to my love of tennis.  Among them are John Simko, Don Grebin, Dave and Tom Weber, Doug Smith, Gerald Sayler, Terry Jordre,  Larry Cantine,  Terry Nielsen,  Jim Van Gerpen,  Ross Fenn along with the families Clayton, Volin, Trautner and Dummermuth,” said Bob.

Holwerda said, “Bob is known throughout Brookings and the entire state of SD as a man of generosity and high integrity.  He and his wife Pat, with children John and Ann, have enjoyed tennis.  But with Bob and his generous and humble support, hundreds of people beyond Hillcrest Park are able to enjoy the great game of tennis as well!”

A youthful age 78, Bob still plays in men’s and mixed leagues in Brookings and has twice weekly tennis gatherings with Bill Flynn, Eric Landwehr,  Pete Anderson, Joe Schumacher, Dave Zeman, Steve Hayes, Dave Lucchesi,  Ovidin Chilom, Kent Siam, Phil Baker and Fred Delfanian.

In a way, to know Bob’s professional life is to know Bob personally.  He is chairman of the board of directors for Fishback   Financial Corporation and First Bank and Trust, while his brother Van is vice chairman.  Business decisions today come from the board room in Brookings, SD, not from far removed board rooms in today’s world of bank mergers and acquisitions.   As a full service bank that opened during the tough times of 1925, the goal of the Fishback family was to fill a real need for personal banking services in Brookings.  In doing so, they helped the growth of Brookings.

Today, they have 16 banks in 12 communities along the I-29 corridor,   from   Watertown  and Milbank, to Sioux Falls to Vermillion,  and east into Pipestone, MN.

Holwerda   says when he became   athletic director at Brookings High School, “Bob knew educators could always use a boost, and he gave us a  mortgage  with interest less than the going rate.  Later, he gave my widowed   mother a higher rate on some savings   so   she would benefit.  I’ll never forget his kindness.  And Bob helped many  other  Brookings  citizens behind the scenes that only they know about.”