Kenny Fischer, the longtime Belleville restaurateur and civic leader, has died.
Fischer, whose family operates the popular Fischer’s Restaurant in Belleville, died Monday. He was 84.
Fischer’s family announced his passing in a Facebook post, in which the family stated: “We know he’s looking down smiling upon us and the legacy he leaves.”
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Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert praised Fischer and his family, who he said “continued a tremendous business and a tremendous service to the people of Belleville.”
“He was an icon in Belleville,” Eckert said. “Kenny was always there, out front with his family and his staff. Any meal you were there for, he was always there to make sure things were well-presented and tasted great.”
Eckert said that as Belleville’s downtown and the neighborhood around Lindenwood University have turned around in recent years, Fischer “was one of those guys for years who always was a part of that.”
Linda Betten Sidor of Chicago said Tuesday night “I can’t remember a time I didn’t know” Fischer.
Betten Sidor grew up in Belleville, back when some still called Fischer’s “The Dutch Girl.” Her dad, Jim Betten, ran Suburban Motors a few blocks west on Main Street from the restaurant and was close with Fischer. She said her parents ate lunch there every day.
“Kenny gave me a job working there which I hated initially,” Betten Sidor said. She said it was her dad’s idea because she didn’t like working at the car lot. “I learned to love it. I loved all the people.”
In fact, Betten Sidor said the summers she worked as a hostess at the restaurant—1965 and 1966—got her interested in the restaurant and hotel industry, serving as the springboard to a college degree in hospitality and a career that included a stint as an events director at the Art Institutes of Chicago.
Fischer also was a private pilot, and Betten Sidor recalls flying around the St. Louis area in Fischer’s plane. “Scared the daylights out of me,” she said. “But it was fun.”
“(Fischer) was a really super nice man,” Betten Sidor said. “He was really kind to me.”
Fischer’s daughters Kathy Bingheim and Annette Allan now operate the restaurant at 2100 W. Main St.