It doesn’t quite rise to the level of the greatest obituary of all time, but a line at the end of James Francis “Fitz” Fitzgerald Sr.’s death notice in Tuesday’s Madison State Journal is certainly out of the ordinary.
His growing guestbook on the Janesville, Wisc. funeral home’s website contains numerous tributes to the late community business leader, but none more telling than the entry from long-time Fitzgerald family friend Robert “Garbo” Garbutt.
“To my dear friends the Fitzgerald family, thank you for sharing Mr Fitz with the rest of us,” Garbutt wrote Monday. “We can all find peace in his example and joy in our time with him. Of course I will make a donation to the Romney campaign! What a guy.”
The obituary itself paints a picture of an eccentric but lovable character. He was “[a] notorious tie hater who thought they were an evil invention from the French” and a church usher who liked to embarrass his friends if they didn’t reach for their wallets.
“One of his favorite things to do was, if one of his friends didn’t put something in the collection basket, he’d just hold it in front of him and then give it a little shake and embarrass the guy,” his son wrote. “And that would be followed by a huge smile.”
His impact on the National Basketball Association was similarly unforgettable. “Former NBA player and team executive Chris Mullin,” according to the obituary, “recently described Fitz as the greatest owner in basketball. When NBA Commissioner David Stern heard what Mullin said, he responded by saying, ‘I’m not allowed to give that designation because I’ve had many, many, many (owners), but there were none better.’”
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