Mary S. Fitzpatrick

Obituary
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New Orleans lost one of its best advocates, and a devoted wife, mother and friend, with the passing of writer Mary S. Fitzpatrick in Hendersonville, North Carolina on December 31, 2013. Elegant, brilliantly smart and always smiling, Fitzpatrick leaves behind a prolific writing legacy, amassed largely through her time as editor of Preservation in Print, the monthly magazine of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, which began in 1994. During her 18 years as editor she also authored, or co-authored, three books: New Orleans: Life in an Epic City; New Orleans' Favorite Shotguns; and New Orleans: Days and Nights in the Dreamy City. Her last book, New Orleans: Days and Nights in the Dreamy City, debuted just this past December to great accolades from around the country. Fitzpatrick had spent years compiling local residents' favorite activities, places to eat, secret haunts and ideal itineraries, and, with the help of co-author Virginia McCollam, the lists of favorites were transformed into a one-of-a-kind guide to experiencing New Orleans. She lived in New Orleans with her husband, Vaughan, and is also survived by two sons, Fletcher and Welles. She was a beloved friend to many in the community, and was always the consummate host, often inviting nonprofit organizations and other groups and friends into her Garden District home for celebrations. She served as Queen of Mystic in 2007 and was also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, the Garden Study Club and the Junior League. Under Fitzpatrick's editorship, Preservation in Print won numerous awards from local and national press organizations, as did Fitzpatrick personally; her writing, which largely focused on the communities, buildings and people that make New Orleans' neighborhoods unique and dynamic, was honored several times in the Best Feature category by the New Orleans Press Club. She donated the proceeds of all three of her books to the Preservation Resource Center with the goal of furthering the work of preserving the authenticity of a city that for many years inspired her. She was a dedicated leader at PRC throughout her tenure, and was a buoyant and inspiring presence to all who worked alongside her. Her optimism was especially beneficial to all she encountered after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005 - Fitzpatrick was among several PRC staff members who devoted themselves to helping families rebuild and return to the city in what she remembered as "a noble time." After Katrina, Fitzpatrick worked selflessly to encourage and promote the work of others, especially young artists, writers and professionals with whom she came in contact, both formally, through organizations including 504ward and Women of the Storm, and informally as a mentor. In addition to her devoted work with the Preservation Resource Center, Fitzpatrick served for years as an appointee to the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, and also served previously on the boards of the Garden District Association, Longue Vue House and Gardens, and Save Our Cemeteries. Though she is known best as a writer, Fitzpatrick was also an avid world traveler and photographer - loves that sprang from years living abroad with her husband and two sons. Early in her career, she taught English as a second language for the U.S. State Department in Naples, Italy, and later at Al Nada Women's Society in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Later, while living in Sudan, she earned a graduate degree in folk culture from the University of Khartoum, where she wrote her thesis on the relationship between certain Nilotic tribes and animals that they consider ancestors. Also while living in Sudan, she wrote an exhibit on traditional marketplaces for the International Trade Fair and copy edited for the University of Khartoum Press. Later, while living in London, she researched the neighborhoods of London's East End for the Museum of London and worked as a feature writer for London-based publications targeting the city's American community. While living in Moscow, she worked as a writer and photographer for the Moscow Tribune; later, back in the U.S., she worked as an exhibit coordinator at the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum. Fitzpatrick was born in Kansas City, Missouri to John M. and Patricia P. Shelton and attended Shawnee Mission East High School. She received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado. Only a week before she passed, Fitzpatrick was delighted when, at a book signing for New Orleans: Days and Nights in the Dreamy City, a former peer from Shawnee Mission East High School came with her high school yearbook for Mary to sign. For those of us who knew Mary, even for just the time it took for her to sign a book, the delight was all ours. Relatives and friends are invited to attend the Memorial Service at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1329 Jackson Avenue, on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. A Memorial Visitation will be held at the church beginning at 10:00 a.m. To view and sign the guest book, visit www.lakelawnmetairie.com.
Published in TheNewOrleansAdvocate.com from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, 2014
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