The Obit For Bob Fitzgerald

Robert "Bob" Fitzgerald

Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on November 16, 2011

PORTLAND -- Bob Fitzgerald passed quietly with loved ones at his side on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011.

At age 85, he had maintained his independence to the end after a full and rich life devoted to family and friends.

A star athlete at Our Lady's High School in Newton, Mass., Bob enlisted for World War II at the age of 17 and was part of the D-Day Invasion that landed on Omaha Beach.

Following the conflict, he attended Boston College, playing varsity baseball and basketball. At six feet, four inches, Bob played center during the same era that Bob Cousy played at Holy Cross. For a number of years he held the school record for free throw percentage.

Baseball, however, was his favorite sport, and as a freshman, he won the varsity catcher's job at 'The Heights.' In his junior year he led the Eagles in RBI's and batted .310. Preceding his senior year, tragedy struck. Involved in a car accident in 1947 that severed part of his right heel, he spent the next 18 months recuperating in a hospital.

Employing a specially constructed shoe, Bob eventually returned to the baseball field, but as an outfielder, before graduating in 1951. Despite his near career-ending injury, he received a contract by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues for $500 to be part of the Boston Braves organization and was assigned to the club's farm team in Hagerston, Md.

While playing summer ball in Canada for the Halifax Capitals - a venture that would land him in the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, Bob met Shirley Hayes, a former Miss Halifax winner. He was athletic, handsome and jokingly referred to as 'perennially tanned.' The pair were smitten with each other and got married in 1953. The ceremony took place at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Halifax with the reception held at the Lord Nelson Hotel.
The couple settled in Newton, Mass. With a son, Robert, arriving the following year, Bob turned his sights away from the ball field and toward the work place, landing a job working in probation and parole for the Commonwealth. Well-liked and respected by his peers, it wasn't long before he rose in the ranks to Asst. Chief of Probation for Waltham Court, and shortly thereafter, to Chief of Probation, a position he held for 33 years.

The family enlarged to four with the arrival of daughter Lesley. Decades of summer vacations at Hubbard's Beach, 30 miles south of Halifax, would follow. There was always a roaring fire going in their cottage and parties would swing into the wee hours.

Back home, a rich social life was enjoyed at the Auburndale Club, where the couple took part in numerous galas, dances and plays. While Shirley brought home several 'Auby' awards for her singing and acting acumen, Bob served as Vice President of the club. Bob was also a tennis player and avid golfer. In addition, he and Shirley loved to travel, visiting London, Ireland, Bermuda and numerous locations in the States and Canada.

With the onset of retirement at the age of 72, the couple moved to Chandler's Wharf in the Old Port section of Portland to be closer to their granddaughter Emma, while also fulfilling Shirley's maritime inclinations.

The good years continued until the advent of Bob and Shirley's 50th wedding anniversary in 2003 when Shirley lost her courageous five-year battle with breast cancer. Bob was devastated. Still, he soldiered on, living independently and enjoying family and friends for another decade.

Bob is survived by his son Robert and wife Michelle LeBrun of South Weymouth, Mass., and his daughter Lesley, her husband Jim Schoonover, and granddaughter Emma of Cape Elizabeth.

An 11 a.m. memorial Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at St. Bartholomew Church, 8 Two Lights Rd., Cape Elizabeth. Burial will take place at Riverside Cemetery, Cape Elizabeth, at a future date. Arrangements are by Conroy-Tully Crawford South Portland Chapel, 1024 Broadway, South Portland.

Online condolences may be expressed at info@crawford.com.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: VNA Hospice 50 Foden Rd. South Portland, Maine 04106