Young Widow Carries on Husband’s Legacy with Endowed Scholarship

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In an instant, Megan Fischer transitioned from a 28-year-old newlywed studying for her nursing certification to a young widow. Her late husband's life is now being honored through the creation of the DJ Fischer Memorial Scholarship.

Megan had met the man she would marry in June 2012. Donald “DJ” Fischer was a 2006 SDSU graduate and a crop-dusting pilot working in Gettysburg. Megan, who earned her degree in nursing from SDSU in 2008, was attending nurse anesthesia school at Mount Marty College.

On their first date, DJ took Megan up in his airplane. Distance means less to pilots than it does to the earthbound. Their first date included an aerial tour of the SDSU campus.

In March 2014, they were married. By the weekend of April 25, they had been married for just six weeks, but DJ knew enough to get out of Megan’s hair as she was studying for her national boards. He decided to fly three friends to Texas for a cattle sale.

Megan had a bad feeling about the trip, but pushed her concerns aside to study. Saturday gave way to Sunday, with increasingly bad weather in the forecast. By late Sunday night, Megan knew something was definitely wrong.

DJ’s plane crashed south of Highmore, killing everyone aboard.

Barely accustomed to the fact that she was a wife, then a widow, Megan learned that she was going to be a mother when her pregnancy test came out positive on May 1, DJ’s birthday.

At her nine-week appointment, Megan learned that her pregnancy wasn’t viable. While discussing plans with her doctor, she mentioned having found a lump on her breast.

On June 12, 2014, what would have been their three-month anniversary, Megan found herself a widow -- with no child and a benign tumor.

Each person deals with pain in a different way. Megan found an outlet for her grief in blogging. Her blog, “Hitting Rock Bottom and Choosing to Get Back Up,” can be found at http://megfischer.blogspot.com.

After a tragedy, some people would want to shut themselves away and wallow in self-pity.

Megan decided to honor her husband with a scholarship at SDSU.

The DJ Fischer Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a student-athlete on the football team with preference given to students pursuing a major or minor in aviation. In one of Megan’s blog postings, she includes a photo of DJ in his plane, with the caption: “In honor and in memory of my pilot who is flying high with Jesus.”

DJ was a standout defensive tackle at SDSU, known for being fierce on the field and a friend to his teammates. “DJ was very athletic for the position he played,” said head coach John Stiegelmeier, noting that players of DJ’s size -- 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds -- are often slowed by their bulk. “He was really a very good football player.”

Stiegelmeier recalls DJ as a “small-town, hardworking, South Dakota kid. He was one of those guys everybody loved.”

Though she met DJ after his college days, Megan knew what his time at SDSU meant to him.

“DJ loved attending school at SDSU and playing football for the Jacks,” Megan said. “He said it was hard work, but he wouldn’t trade those days for anything.”

After college, DJ attended Jacks’ games when he could and introduced Megan to that tradition when they started dating.

After his death, it only seemed natural that DJ and SDSU should remain linked in some way.

“DJ was a huge advocate for post-secondary education,” Megan said. “Educating the future generation has always been important to both of us, so I knew immediately we would carry on his legacy with a scholarship in his name at SDSU.”

DJ had deep connections in Gettysburg and the community came together after his death. Funds for the scholarship were raised through an annual golf tournament and auction arranged and managed by his friends.

Life goes on, even after the most difficult of circumstances. Megan plans to move to Sioux Falls this summer and begin work at Sanford Health as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. 

She isn’t sure what will happen to the blog that helped her through the worst of times.

“I’m not sure of my blogging career at this point in time,” Megan said. “I’m going to take the summer off and get settled into a new job and a new home and then, who knows?” 

“They say time heals, and after one year, I can attest that this theory is somewhat true. However, with that being said, I can also tell you that there is a piece of my heart that still aches just as much today as it did 365 days ago. Some days that pain is roaring with a vengeance bringing me back to my early days of grief, while other days, it’s simply more of an ache, but nonetheless, I continue to feel the pain of losing my husband EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.”

> Megan Fischer