Jack Duane Fitzgerald, 81, a longtime resident of Mancos, Colorado passed away near his Queen Valley, AZ home on Monday, January 25, 2021. Jack died peacefully with his wife and family by his side.
Jack was born on May 14, 1939 to Edna R. and James H. Fitzgerald at the family home in Mancos, Colorado. He was welcomed to the world by a large family including eight half brothers and sisters (Charlie, Ruby, Thelma (Pete), James, Leonard, Phyllis, Marvin, Russell) and his toddler brother Clyde.
Born in the months preceding the start of World War II in a very large family meant that Jack and his brothers were counted upon to contribute. They could be found hunting or fishing in the beautiful San Juan Mountains that they loved or kicking around Riffey's Pasture down the street from their childhood home. Jack and his brothers were known for their steady aim and they could be counted upon to bring home dinner on most days.
While money was tight, it served to make the family closer. While they were not wealthy, they had riches money could not buy. They had a happy home that was filled with kindness and love. Their blended family all seemed to appreciate having landed in a very large loving family as they remained close to one another all of their lives. Best of all, those close family relationships extended to new spouses and dozens of cousins who all remain close today.
As a young man, Jack worked at a variety of odd jobs but the job he loved most was working for Fred "Doc" Reddert as a Veterinary assistant. It was there that Jack discovered his love for animals. Over the years the family raised a pet skunk, a porcupine, a ground hog, and a very patient donkey called Pedro. Jack had a knack for the work and would have loved to pursue a career as a Veterinarian.
In 1958, Jack married his high school sweetheart, (Mattie) LaNita Trevino at a ceremony held at her mother's home in Mancos, Colorado. In 2018, Jack and LaNita celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary by renewing their vows. In their sixty plus years together, they were almost inseparable whether it be work, play, or spending time on the lake or the hills with family and friends.
Having married at 18 years old, the early years were challenging with the arrival of three children in three years (Jacque Lynn, Shauna Marie, and Tony Darren) and another three years later, Marty Kay. Like his father before him, he never found another mouth to feed a burden. In 1971, Dennis Ray (age 2 months) and in 1973, Sharon Marie (age 4) joined the family. Coming to the family from foster care they both became family as they remain to this day.
Jack was always a good provider for his family. He dutifully handed over the paycheck to LaNita at the end of the week and never asked for anything for himself. Like his father he raised an enviable garden, raised animals on their farm and hunted to provide food for his young family. In the early years, Jack worked for the National Park Service where he worked to restore the Indian ruins at Mesa Verde National Park and later with the Forest Service where he supervised the ruin restoration at Chimney Rock. Jack remained at the National Forest Service where he worked and cultivated friendships that lasted a lifetime.
In 1977, Jack and LaNita built and opened the Mancos Car Wash and Laundromat which they owned and operated for seven years. The success of the business allowed Jack to retire from the Forest Service and focus on other family business ventures some twenty years later.
In 1984, The family suffered the loss of their daughter Jacque Lynn (preceded in death by her husband Jeffrey Phillips). Overnight Jack and LaNita found themselves raising their preschool granddaughters Mattie Tyana and Tandolyn (Tandy) Kay. Upon his passing, Jack's granddaughter Tandy wrote, "Grandma and Grandpa had a special way of allowing their extras to know where they came from but still know that they were loved just as much as their own".
For thirty straight years Jack had teenagers in his home and he always found time to cheer them on at band concerts, basketball, volleyball, and football games. If there was a lake with fish in it, or an open bow season, you would know where to find Tony, Dennis and Jack. Jack loved every minute he spent with his boys.
Jacque gave Jack his first granddaughters - granddaughters he would soon realize were the greatest gift he could ever receive. Shauna spoiled dad his entire time in Arizona. He made numerous friends in the Valley and especially loved helping her cook in the café. He became a skilled dishwasher, and loved making the cinnamon rolls that he became known for. Marty was very close to her dad a closeness that started the day she was born and lasted their entire lifetime. Marty loved her dad so much she paid him the highest compliment and named her son Jack after him. Finally, when Sharon joined the family she had never heard the words "I love you from her father", she no longer had to worry about that when Jack became her dad.
Jack lived in service to his family and his community. He gave of his time to help the community and earned local recognition as the Citizen of the Year in 1990. Jack fulfilled a lifetime dream by building a log cabin with the help of his wife, children and friends in an aspen clearing in Spring Creek high in the San Juan mountains. This family cabin became the Mancos home to so many visiting family members and friends and became a cherished destination for so many family events over the years.
Service will be held May 15 in Mabank, TX.
Published in The Journal on Feb. 23, 2021.