F. Gerard "Jerry" Fitzpatrick â€˜42, a legendary figure at Saint Mary's College and in Contra Costa County for more than six decades, passed away on Dec. 30. He was 89.
A successful businessman who in 1948 co-founded Fitzpatrick Chevrolet-Buick with his father in Concord, Mr. Fitzpatrick was patriarch of a Saint Mary's family with three generations of graduates. He remained deeply involved with the College he loved throughout his life.
"Jerry was a great alumnus and friend of the College," said Brother President Ronald Gallagher. "He had a tremendous sense of loyalty to the College and his family, and was a real pillar of society in the East Bay and the business world."
In addition to serving on the College's Board of Regents since 1988, including as president from 2002 to 2003, Mr. Fitzpatrick was a tireless fundraiser for the College. A resident of Walnut Creek, he also served on the boards of numerous community organizations, including the John Muir Health Foundation, the Contra Costa Symphony and the Contra Costa Council Boy Scouts.
"He knew all kinds of people in Concord and Contra Costa County, and connected a lot of these people with the College in one way or another," said former SMC president Brother Mel Anderson.
The many community organizations Mr. Fitzpatrick supported frequently honored him for his service. His awards over the years included Concord Businessman of the Year, the St. Jude Hospital Achievement Award and the Archbishop Alemany Award for Christian Service. In 1993, Saint Mary's named Mr. Fitzpatrick its alumnus of the year.
After earning his degree at Saint Mary's in 1942, Mr. Fitzpatrick served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Following the war, he returned to his job in the automobile industry, where he had begun working at the Oakland Chevrolet assembly plant that his father, Frank J. Fitzpatrick, managed.
At a time when Californians' love affair with the automobile was beginning to take off, the Fitzpatrick father-and-son team ventured out to the growing suburban communities of Contra Costa and opened Fitzpatrick Chevrolet-Buick on Diamond Boulevard in Concord in 1948. Through the younger Mr. Fitzpatrick's steady leadership over several decades, the dealership grew into one of the county's largest and most successful auto retailers and remains a family business.
In retirement, Mr. Fitzpatrick spent a great deal of time at his second home in Palm Springs, where he befriended local luminaries such as Bob Hope, the Beach Boys and former President Gerald R. Ford. In 1993, he and Brother Mel presented an honorary Saint Mary's degree to Ford, an officer at the U.S. Navy's pre-flight school on the Saint Mary's campus during the 1940s.
Whether interacting with a former U.S. president or a young family looking to buy its first car, Mr. Fitzpatrick always treated people with respect, according to Brother Mel.
"Jerry Fitzpatrick was a very devout and clever man - a man of real polish," Brother Mel said. "He was a stellar Saint Mary's alumnus."
Fitzpatrick's wife of 62 years, Mary Dolores, passed away in 2007. He is survived by sons Jerry '67 and Dennis â€˜70, eight grandchildren (including SMC alumna Lisa '95), and one great-grandchild.
The College will hold a funeral Mass for Mr. Fitzpatrick on Jan. 8, 2009 at 10 a.m. in the Chapel.
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