John Fitzgerald was born and raised in Columbia, Tennessee. He was one of nine children. His father passed away when he was nine years old and then his mother when he was sixteen. Although her time with him was short, she planted a deep seed of love for God. She took him to church and as a teenager John committed his life to God. John held true to that commitment. Another woman and another commitment soon followed. John eventually ended up on a double date with a girl named Joanne. They really had a great time, the only problem was they were not each other’s date. John was Joanne’s friends date. But afterwards, John came by Joanne’s house to ask her on a date. She told him she couldn’t do that to her friend. John said, “Would it matter if I told you that your friend has a date with Lem (Joanne’s current boyfriend) tonight? Joanne replied, “What time are you picking me up?” Ever since then John has been loving, devoted, patient, and kind to her. They enjoyed 54 years of marriage. They made a great team. He would run a vacuum, do laundry, clean, run errands, but couldn’t cook! He loved Joanne every second of the day. When children and grandchildren reflect on the goodness of John’s life they mention the way he treated their mother and grandmother. As a father he was gentle but stern. Mike, Jeff, and Paula (Richardson) knew his boundaries and that he was unyielding, but they also knew he was fair and patient. When Paula pretty much totaled a 5 week old car, John calmly asked about her, and said, “we can take care of the car.” A calm, similar reply was given to Joanne when she backed another car into the side of the house. His children respected him in such a way they didn’t want to disappoint him. As a grandfather each of his grandchildren seemed to always have his undivided attention. In photographs he is always holding one of them. As they grew older he was always available for a ride to school, appointments, or errands. Megan reflected on her grandfather saying, “I feel like I have known one of the greats. What a blessing to be a part of his story and see how it has impacted mine!” It was important to John for his eight grandchildren to know how much he loved them. As a friend, coworker, and brother in Christ, he was a Barnabas type. He encouraged others. He enjoyed pranks. His integrity was unwavering. He was soft spoken, yet commanded respect. His humor was bone dry.
But back to that first commitment he made as a teenager. John worked tirelessly as a partner with God. He loved mission work. He led a prison work, taught Bible classes, directed Youth Bible Camps, served as a deacon, and never lost focus. A couple of years ago I visited with him at the ER. He spoke of his failing health. It was almost as if the loss of health was palatable, but tears came to his eyes as he stated, “I just can’t work in the church the way I want to anymore.” That was the target of his grief. That was the love John had for His Lord and His Kingdom. He served our country in the Army during the Korean War. He succeeded in a career with DuPont for over 30 years. He succeeded as a friend of many. But all that he was and all that he did had to fall under, and be influenced by, his great love for God and his family.
Paula said, “I know that it is easy at someone’s death for rosy pictures to be painted, but I have been telling the same story of my daddy all my life.”
May God comfort this good family. Thank God for John’s life. And let’s live for a great reunion.