￼￼Almost two weeks ago, the world lost a good one, as a result of a motorcycle crash. Most people knew William Fitzgerald Jr. as Jim, Or Fitz. As a police officer he served the city of McHenry Illinois, from 1974-2000 after which he joined the sheriff's office as a court security officer. He was well liked, any many remember him for his sense of humor. He had a great impact on his community, and for that I would like to help someone else whom has aspirations of serving others through the field of law enforcement. I would like to donate a scholarship to help out that special person who is looking at pursuing a career in law enforcement. Jim had an impact on my life, and his memory should be able to have an impact on someone else as well. Below you will find some words from his daughter, as well as the story of how I came to know him.
We always knew how much we loved him, but until his passing, our family had no idea of the impact my Father had on so many people. Friends, co-workers, family and even those he’s arrested have reached out to express their condolences and share stories of his kindness, humor and strength. The service to his country and community, unwavering love for his family, and kindness and respect he showed others will be his legacy. It’s very clear, our loss is not ours alone. We were given 10 extra years with my Father that we didn’t expect to have after his Melanoma diagnosis. He was here to see 3 of his children marry, meet all 8 of his grandchildren and celebrate 43 years of marriage with my Mother. For that, and so much more, we are grateful. He loved his family fiercely and he was our whole world.
I believe it was 1990 when I met Jim and Jane Fitzgerald and their family. I grew up at a campground in central Wisconsin, and that was were I met them. They became a permanent summer fixture at our campground. Every weekend they would leave Wonder Lake Illinois and drive the 2 1/2 hours north to their home away from home. Within a short time, I, along with my sister, cousins and other campground kids of our age formed a bond. Weekend after weekend our friendships with the Fitzgerald's grew. Their campsite became like my, and several others, second homes. We would spend countless hours creating wonderful memories with their entire family. From swimming in the pond, to the countless games of volleyball, the adventures seemed endless. And I cannot even imagine the amount of firewood that was burned around their fire pit, and how many hundreds, possibly thousands of marshmallows were consumed. Jane would always take care of us, with drinks or snacks. As well as the many breakfasts that she made us after we had sat around that fire until the sun came up.
At first I was a little afraid of Jim. He knew how to give you that "Look". I was a cocky, sometimes arrogant teenage boy at that time. You know, with that " my poop don't stink" attitude. That did not fly with Jim. There was more than one occasion where I received that look. And the fact that he was a "Cop" made him all the more intimidating to me at the start. And then there was the fact that he would bring his sidearm with him to keep in the camper. So, there is a dad, of 4, three of them daughters, who could give you the "look", was a police officer, and had gun with him. What kid wouldn't be intimidated by him.
It did not take long for me to see the true side of him though. He was larger than life. I can remember the way that he would joke and laugh with Jane and the kids. It took me a while to see it, but he had a great sense of humor. Not to mention the patience he had with our gang on those nights when we might have been a little loud around the fire. He was stern, but fair. He would help us out in any way he could, but remind us when we were about to get a little carried away with the dumb kid stuff.
As I got older, I took up golf and had the privilege of chasing those stupid little balls around with Jim. As frustrating as the game was for him at times, o.k maybe lots of times, he loved every minute of it. Jim invited me down to stay at their home so I could golf with him at an outing. I could not tell you what the outing was for, or the course it was at, but I will never forget this one hole. It was a typical golf outing, where you had to wait at each hole for a foursome or two before you were able to hit. One of the holes was a relatively straight par 4, but it had a hill a little ways down the fairway that blocked your view. The group in front of us hit, and we waited for them before we were able to hit our balls. The problem is, you could not see over the hill to tell if the group in front was far enough down the fairway so we could hit. After what seemed like an insufficient amount of time, Jim told me to go ahead. I told him that I thought I would hit them, and that we should wait. He looked at me, gave me that big grin, and proceeded to hit a fantastic drive right down the center of the fairway. I told him that he probably hit into them and he should have waited. That is when the laughter erupted out of him. You see, Jim knew something I did not. And through the laughter he told me to turn around and look up. Of course I thought it was some kind of a joke, but it was not. So the hole we were on was directly behind the clubhouse, and mounted towards the top of the building was a large mirror that allowed you to see over the hill that obstructed our view. So he knew when he hit that beautiful shot down the middle, that it was safe to do so. And for me, I might have shanked my drive, which caused more uncontrollable laughter, but for both of us this time.
As we grew up, the Fitzgeralds' left our campground and moved on, as often happens when the children grow out of the camping age. And as the years past, so did the frequency of times that we would see each other. I still consider them family to this day, and still hold many of those memories close to my heart. And until we meet again my friend, keep hitting them down the middle.
On September 15th, I will be participating in a one hundred mile bicycle ride in Door County Wisconsin. It is something I have always wanted to do, and cannot think of a better way to honor Jim than to ride for him. I will be sharing my ride and if you would be interested in following a live tracker of my ride, send me an email to [email redacted] with Friends of Fitz in the subject line. Then when I start the ride, it will email you a link where you can go to see my progress. And thank you so much for your donation.