FitzGerald, Richard J.,
Judge Richard J. FitzGerald, 71, (known universally as "Fitz") passed away on December 27, 2017 after a brief illness. A native of New York City, Fitz first fell in love with Kentucky while volunteering for the Christian Appalachian Project in McKee County. After graduating from Manhattan College, he taught English at Hughes-Quinn Junior High School in East St. Louis before moving to Louisville to study law at the University of Louisville. After a brief stint in private practice, Fitz was appointed to the Juvenile Court bench in 1975, at age 29. Fitz served as Chief Judge of Juvenile Court for more than 10 years and was instrumental in the creation of the concept of a unified "family" Court, from which he retired in 2000.
Fitz devoted his entire career to advocating for the welfare of Kentucky's abused and neglected children. For his efforts, he was recognized as Judge of the Year by the National CASA Association and received the Chief Justice's Special Service Award for Outstanding Service to the Courts of Kentucky. He also received accolades from the Louisville Bar Association, the Justice Resource Center, the National Counsel of Juvenile & Family Court Judges and the Urban League. He was most rewarded, however, by hearing directly from the many children and families whose lives he touched. He firmly believed that "there are no unwanted children, only unfound parents" and celebrated his greatest joys from the bench: finalizing adoptions of children in foster care and returning children to homes that were healed. Fitz was deeply involved in his community, and served on the boards of the World Affairs Council, Actors Theater, and the National Association of Counsel for Children.
He shared his passion for family law, juvenile justice, and education by serving as adjunct faculty for the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and as a visiting professor at the ChildLaw Center at Loyola University. He was delighted to receive a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in 2003 from Bellarmine University. An avid banjo player, sailor, world traveler, storyteller and gardener, Fitz spent his retirement years serving as a mediator, consultant, mentor, educator, and doting grandfather, all while sporting his trademark bow tie.
Fitz is survived by his wife of 46 years, Dr. Marjorie Rumely FitzGerald, his daughters Nora Meldrum (Brian) and Molly Perry (Timothy), and granddaughters Lucy Perry and Abigail and Emmeline Meldrum. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Ruth FitzGerald and his older brother, Edward FitzGerald, Jr. His surviving family members include his brother Tom FitzGerald (Patricia), sisters Maureen Morrell (Rob), Jane FitzGerald, sister in law Noi FitzGerald and his Rumely family in-laws: Pete and Lois Rumely, Antoinette Rumely, Marti and Henry Kuehn, John and Christine Rumely, and Frances and Terry Jones. He also leaves behind dozens of nieces and nephews, who will forever treasure memories of banjo sing-alongs with their Uncle Fitz.
There will be a memorial service on Saturday, January 6 at 12 p.m. at Pearson's, 149 Breckenridge Lane, 40207. Visitation will be on Friday, January 5 from 4-7 p.m. at Pearson's.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to CASA of the River Region or the Kentucky Resources Council.
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Published by Courier-Journal from Dec. 30, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2018.