Richard J. FitzGerald
1946 - 2017
BORN
1946
DIED
2017
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.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
Jan
5
Visitation
4:00p.m. - 7:00p.m.
Pearson Funeral Home
149 Breckenridge Lane, Louisville, KY 40207
Jan
6
Memorial service
12:00p.m.
Pearson Funeral Home
149 Breckenridge Lane, Louisville, KY 40207
Funeral services provided by:
Pearson Funeral Home
GUEST BOOK
Add a Message
24 Entries
Still think about you, Mac, Ellen and all the rest from 50 years ago, Fitz. Many pleasant memories.RIP, Good friend. Ronnie Cook.
Ronald Cook
December 27, 2020
Fitz was an icon in the field of juvenile and family justice. His teachings and commitment improved court practice nationwide. There are no doubt thousands of families and children who had a better court experience as a result of his work. The 'Marios and Marias' of the nation thank you, Fitz. My best to Marge, Nora, Molly, and Patty Fitz. It has been an honor to know you all. Mary
Mary Mentaberry
December 24, 2020
It's been 2 years since Fitz passed and joined so many of his brethren in Heaven. Just seeing his picture, again, in this Legacy Memorial brings back so many wonderful memories and a few tear drops. Fitz, 'ole buddy' -- We've missed you and wish you were down here with us. We're (sorta) running out of 'really special people.' The world is in a 'mess' and we don't seem to be able to get anything done down here in Louisville and Kentucky -- at this point. Your leadership is dearly missed.
J. Bruce Miller
Friend
December 24, 2019
There are no words. Good bye Fitz.
Robert Emmet McCarthy
January 6, 2018
Out thoughts are with you.
George and NANCY Boatwright Newman
January 5, 2018
Judge Fitzgerald was a true inspiration to me and treated everyone before with kindness and respect. He will truly be missed.
Rose Benkert
January 5, 2018
Please accept our sincere condolences and sympathy in the passing of Fitz, a wonderful human being.
May he rest in peace and may God comfort you.
Rev A. RUSSELL Awkard and Pamela Bridgewater
January 5, 2018
To the Family of "Fitz"

It has been a number of years since I have seen or talked with "Fitz." However, the void of time in no way changes or minimizes the profound impact that "Fitz" had on me personally and professionally.

I came to Louisville in early 1980, in the midst of a firestorm of sorts, when I was named Director of Youth Detention & Protection Services. Needless to say the challenges presented in achieving much needed reform were significant. Arguably overwhelming.

It wasn't long after assuming my responsibilities that along came this fella eveyone knew as "Fitz." In his own unique way "Fitz" was able to "paint a picture" of hope and optimism and the belief that there was nothing that wasn't achievable in making a difference in the lives of at-risk children, youth & families. Suffice it to say the rest was history.

"Fitz," through his knowledge, wisdom, creativity, deep committment and fearlessness had an enormous and unparalleled impact on the lives of thousands of at-risk families and professionals in Louisville and throughout this Nation.

"Fitz" changed the way our profession approached its mission, all of which made a tremendous difference and yes, saved lives. "Fitz" left an indelible imprint on the direction my career in juvenile justice and I will FOREVER be in his debt!

RIP YOUR HONOR
Earl Dunlap
January 4, 2018
To Marge, Maureen, and all the family, You have our sincere sympathy as you deal with the loss of your beloved Fitz. The community has lost one of its pillars. Sincerely, George and Pat Webb
January 3, 2018
To the Fitzgerald Family,
Judge was a very dear friend to me and my family. He had a profound impact on my boys when they were growing up. I remember one instance where we waited more than 2 hours for one of my son's to show up for court. I kept waiting for Judge to issue some type of order that would have him locked up on sight, but Judge just said "he has never lied to me...we will wait, and wait we did". He was truly a great man, and will be missed.
R. Lawson
January 2, 2018
Dear Marge, Nora, and Molly,

For those of us who were blessed to know , to work with, to respect, and to love Fitz, our sense of loss is second only to the loss felt by you and your family.
Fitz was-and always will be-the "Gold Standard,"for
Juvenile and Family Court Judges in our Commonweath and Nationwide.
Prior to the 1970s Constitutional Amendment that created Kentucky's new court system, I had the distinct honor and privilege as County Judge,of selecting and appointing Ellen (Ewing), Dave (Armstrong), Bill (McAnaulty) and Fitz (Fitzgerald) to Juvenile Court.
All of these great Judges are now gone but their imprint will live forever. I can only believe that God called Fitz home because Heaven needed a great Patron Saint for children and families.
May God bless all of you.
Todd Hollenbach
January 2, 2018
Judge Fitz, you will be sorely missed. Ed introduced you to me when I moved to Louisville from Berea and worked with Migration ,Judge Fitz, you will be sorely missed. Ed introduced you to me when I moved to Louisville from Berea and worked with Migration
Peter Li
January 1, 2018
Judge Richard FitzGerald,
It is not often in life that you can find a person that everyone has that smile that was fostered by a time you were with the Judge. He had the respect of his peers, The Police, and the citizens who met him. He made a difference in the lives of children. You know a man has never stood taller than when he bent over to help a child. He helped many Rest in peace Judge.
Retired Louisville Police Officer
Dave Johnson
December 30, 2017
I am so sorry for your loss. May God's promise comfort and sustain your family during this difficult time. John 6:40.
December 30, 2017
Marge and girls, I read the wonderful article in the CJ today and am sad such a great contributor has passed. But his legacy remains as a tribute to his work and commitment. May he Rest In Peace and Rememberance of him. Marilyn Wolpert
December 30, 2017
With deepest sympathy!
Ann Reynolds
December 30, 2017
We will miss your wisdom, kindness, compassion and amazing banjo playing. You helped so many and always our go to person for anyone in crises. The day I spent in your courtroom made me realize what an incredible job you do. It changed me forever. It take a special person to do what you did. I would have curled up in a ball after a day. Thank you for always being there for us on our worst days. Love you Fitz.
Colleen Rumely Dietrich
December 30, 2017
It is with a heavy heart that we send our condolences. Marge, Nora and Molly and all your family has lost a unique warm wonderful person. We feel like a sparkle has left this earth. Memories, so many memories through the years. Our love and hope for your peace. Maureen and David Huerter
Maureen Huerter
December 30, 2017
I met Fitz in the Bronx when I was in High School and he was at Manhattan College, my Father's Alma Mater. He loved to sing and play harmonica and banjo. I went to college in Louisville where he and Marge were my friends. I am so sad that he is gone but happy that I could call him my dear friend.
Angela Murray
December 30, 2017
Fitz was one of the all-time greats. The judges who took the bench after the Judicial Amendment in 1975 (like Fitz) have made a remarkable contribution to the Kentucky and Jefferson County judiciary. As County Attorney, at that time, it was indeed a pleasure and privilege to deal with such highly qualified folks -- who really had the dedication coupled with the knowledge. Fitz was in the 'front-row' of human excellence. He will be long-remembered by many and I will never forget him and his contributions as long as I live. Thanks Fitz -- it's been quite a trip and an honor to have known you.
J. Bruce Miller
December 30, 2017
The Manhattan College alumni community shares the grief, and is now praying for our fellow alumni and the family at this time. The Alumni Office has been informed. As well as the Jasper Jottings community that I personally can reach. We are all a little poorer now. "No man is an island, entire of itself ... any mans death diminishes me". We are sorry for your loss.
fjohn reinke (mc1968)
December 29, 2017
I knew Fitz before he was appointed to the Juvenile Court Bench. I considered him a friend then and forever, although I hadn't seen him much since his retirement. Jefferson County and the World lost it's most ardent advocate for the children in need I've ever known. My deepest sympathies to his family and other friends. I can only hope and believe that he is now with Mac,Ellen and many other friends looking down on us and having a good laugh and waiting on the rest of us. We all lost a great friend. See you later Fitz.
Ronnie Cook
December 29, 2017
Dear Marjorie, Nora and Molly:Please accept my deepest sympathy. Fitz was a visionary in the field and his guidance and mentorship helped to improve practice in courtrooms across the nation. It was an honor to work with him for so many years and a pleasure to know you all. You are in my thoughts and prayers.Best, Mary Mentaberry
Mary Mentaberry
December 29, 2017
You have my sincerest condolences. I knew Judge Fitzgerald from a brief period when I was a court clerk. Judge Fitzgerald was always friendly. He really looked and acted like a judge. I remember his honesty above all. May you be comforted by loving memories of him.
Randy Farb
December 29, 2017