A Tribute to Tom Fitzgerald (1935-2015)
By Ken Quinn
On Saturday September 5th former Director of Organization Tom Fitzgerald passed away in Montreal at the age of eighty. Thomas Walter Fitzgerald was born June 26, 1935 to Patrick Fitzgerald and Catherine Rimmer and was baptized July 7, 1935 at St. Ann's Church in Griffintown.
A brief review of the UIS archives indicates Tom was a Deputy Parade Director from at least 1972, and likely a marshal before that. From 1972 through 1996 he played an important role in the direction of the parade.
Tom is perhaps best known for the seventeen years he served as Director of Organization of the annual St. Patrick's Parade. Speaking from experience this can be an all-encompassing burdensome position, at no time moreso than when the continuity of the parade is threatened such as during the unbelievable snow storm in March 1993. The overabundance of snow falling in the days prior to the parade necessitated having the discussion internally and with civic officials about how to proceed. Tom and the Executive held firm that the parade was to take place. In the hours prior to the parade the skies cleared, civic officials ensured the snow was pushed to the sides in the downtown core, and the parade went on as scheduled, albeit a smaller edition due to the difficulties encountered by participants and spectators in their efforts to get downtown.
From 1980 through 1996 the United Irish Societies was led by nine presidents who were seconded by eleven vice presidents. Four treasurers safe guarded the organization’s finances. Seven corresponding secretaries and seven recording secretaries wrote and received correspondence and recorded the organization’s proceedings. Eight directors of public relations, both appointed and elected, focused on the media visibility the organization received. And yet during that time there was one director of organization.
Tom’s seventeen years of uninterrupted service as Director of Organization gives us pause to remember the twenty five years of service John Loye gave to the organization from 1933 to 1957 as its President, the twenty years William C. Hickey dedicated to the parade as Director of Organization from 1943 to 1957 and from 1960 to 1964, the more than twenty years Hugh McGlynn served as Treasurer, and the more than thirty years Simon McDonaugh served as Chief Deputy Marshal. As a sign of respect and small token of appreciation, President Joseph Quinn presented Tom with his Director of Organization sash at the beginning of the 1997 season, a sash he would subsequently wear on at least one occasion when he walked side by side on parade in the early 2000s with Director of Organization Stephen Dowd.
Ken Quinn, Historian
September 8, 2015