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Manus 'Jack' Fish, 81, dies; led Park Service in D.C. area

WASHINGTON - Manus "Jack" Fish, the National Park Service regional director who oversaw the heavily trafficked National Mall and expanded the Civil War battlefield at Manassas, Va., died after a stroke Feb. 27. He was 81.

Fish led the Park Service's diverse National Capital Region, whose holdings include historic memorials, an urban sports complex, Civil War battlefields, the White House and more. His office granted 1,000 permits a year for demonstrations including a one-person crusade for "husband liberation" as well as the hundreds of thousands who gather for the Fourth of July celebrations between the Capitol and Washington Monument. He was the regional director from 1973 to 1988 after working three years as the deputy.

A diplomatic and unflappable engineer, Fish worked for the Park Service for 36 years, based the entire time in Washington. He helped design playground swings and the Roosevelt Bridge and became a regular presence on Capitol Hill, appearing at hearings or reassuring his hundreds of Congressional bosses that, yes, he was dealing with the timing of lights on the George Washington Parkway or trying to resolve who would pay for a leaking roof at the Kennedy Center.

"I've got to study issues in detail," he told a Washington Post reporter in 1978. "And I guess I like that. If I didn't, I'd have ulcers and high blood pressure."

His nighttime studying was done in a household of a dozen children, with television, radio, stereos and phone conversations swirling around him. His wife of 58 years, Rosemary Fish, was "kind of a short-order cook," he joked, adept at managing the comings and goings of the brood.

In addition to his wife of Ashburn, Va., survivors include his 12 children, 42 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

A native of Trenton, N.J., Fish moved to Washington as a youth. He served in the Army in Korea between World War II and the Korean War, then returned to Washington and graduated from Catholic University with a degree in engineering. He began working for the Park Service in 1952, reporting to the stone engineer's office near the Washington Monument.

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