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Massapequa blood donor closes in on 40 gallons

Al Fischer, who is about to donate a

Al Fischer, who is about to donate a pint of blood which will give him a total of 40 gallons donated, in a blood processing lab at Long Island Blood Services on Monday, August 31, 2009 in Westbury, New York. Credit: Photo by Howard Schnapp

Good deeds come in different forms: Some people give their time, others donate money.

Al Fischer prefers to give blood.

The print shop operator from Massapequa, affectionately known as Albee, has been donating blood every year since 1951, when Harry S. Truman was in the White House - 11 presidents ago.

So far, Fischer has given 319 pints of blood and he will do it again Tuesday in Woodbury, bringing his lifetime donation to a total of 40 gallons.

"I'm too cheap to give money, so I give blood," Fischer, 75, said jokingly.

Only one other person in the United States has given more blood, according to a New York Blood Center official - Maurice Wood, 83, a retired federal railroad inspector from St. Louis.

Fischer, who last spoke to Wood a few months ago, said he and Wood are engaged in a friendly rivalry.

"He's about six or seven pints ahead of me," said Fischer.

The remarkable thing, said Harvey Schaffler, executive director of Long Island Blood Services, isn't the fact that Fischer donates blood at his age but that he does it every eight weeks, about six times a year. Fischer donates whole blood, which is then split into three components.

"He's a one-man army, who has helped almost a thousand people," said Schaffler, who met Fischer more than two decades ago at a blood drive in Manhattan.

It all started in the summer of 1951 when Fischer, then 17, was visiting relatives in Union, S.C., he said. The First Baptist Church in town was holding a blood drive and Fischer made his first donation.

"It was a breeze and I was helping people," Fischer said.

Eight weeks later, the church held another blood drive, and Fischer donated his second pint of blood.

And he kept on donating, one pint at a time.

Fischer kept record of his blood donations years before the New York Blood Center started to record blood donation in 1964. Fischer said he received a letter from the Red Cross in 1954 congratulating him for donating a total of 2 gallons, the first of many milestones.

To encourage others to give blood, Fischer got a vanity license plate - "O BLOOD" - as an advertisement.

"The take-away message is that you don't have to be Al Fischer," said Schaffler. "You can donate once or twice a year and it will make an impact on the blood supply."

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