ForeverMissed
Please join us to celebrate the life of THOMAS JOHN FITZPATRICK 

Sunday, September 27, 2020 4:00 PM Eastern | 3:00 PM Central |1:00 PM Pacific

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Obituary: 
Former White Bear Lake school teacher Thomas John Fitzpatrick, age 89, passed on Saturday, August 29, 2020, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota due to complications from a heart attack.

Tom is survived by Maureen (Rena) Joan Fitzpatrick (nee: Kimball), his wife of 68 years; six children, Margaret Mary "Peggy" (Steve Bauman), Mark Thomas (Kyoko Okuda), Colleen Marie (Rick Levien), Shannon Mae (Bernie Harlow), Kevin Michael (Pamela) and Patricia Rose (Doug McKinnon); 17 grandchildren; 7 great-children; sister Catherine Ann (Fitzpatrick) Simpkins, brother Michael Alan (Susan); and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives and friends. He is preceded by his parents Thomas James and Isabelle, and his sister Patricia.

Tom was born and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of an Irish-American postal worker and a Dutch immigrant.Having served in the Naval Reserves, he attended St. Thomas College on the G.I bill, earning both his bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees as the father of a rapidly growing family.His first professional job was as a teacher of Spanish and English in Cambridge, Minnesota. In 1961, he transferred to the White Bear Lake School District, teaching those two subjects in Junior and Senior High Schools for over three decades.Along the way, he improved his Spanish through study in Mexico, including via a memorable year when he and Rena brought their six children to San Miguel de Allende and Guadalajara.

Tom was a devoted family man who worked a number of summer and evening jobs to supplement his teacher’s salary. He built two homes of his own, and later worked in real estate, producing a 20-unit townhouse development next to his house on Elm Street, White Bear Lake. He grew cucumbers, corn and pumpkins as cash crops that his children sold in lieu of allowance. He taught his progeny to support the underdog and he led by example, at age 34 becoming the first president of the White Bear Lake Area Human Relations Council. He was known for his dry sense of humor and generosity, including his fondness for distributing $2 bills. He was a poet, a beekeeper, a lover of vehicles, and a strong believer in democracy and rights for all.

Those wishing to honor Thomas John Fitzpatrick with a donation are encouraged to contribute to a progressive charity of their choice or to the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation.

(For more about Tom's life, click on the Stories tab, and please leave tributes below.)



Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 22, 2020
Wow the great pictures! Such an awesome teacher, now I see why. Such a fulfilled life!
You will be missed!
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 13, 2020
The following comments were posted on the FB page "You know you are from White Bear Lake if..."

Nancy Wild Anderson
One of my favorites.

Sara Ann
I had him at both central and at North campus. He taught me Spanish and English. My wardrobe got a lot greener as I got extra credit for wearing green for some reason
Posted by Catherine Simpkins on September 12, 2020
We called him Tommy in earlier years. He was my big brother, Tom, who I always looked up to because he was so cool. 
We had a black and white dog named Butch, who I always called my dog; however, he became Tommy's dog because he seemed to like him better.

One winter when we had a lot of snow, and we lived above a tavern called Marty's in St. Paul, with a nice big porch on the back, Tommy decided to jump from the railing of the porch into the big snowbank below. He did, and didn't get hurt. It seems like my older sister also jumped into the snowbank. Being of sound mind (and a little scared) I didn't jump.

Another time when Tom launched his speedboat in the Mississippi River, he gave rides to the whole family, including mom and dad. He gave me and two of my friends a ride, also younger brother Mike and girlfriend Maureen.

He was a good brother and I will miss him.
Catherine Fitzpatrick Simpkins
Posted by Mark Fitzpatrick on September 10, 2020
Tributes in the "You know you are from White Bear Lake if...." Facebook page:

Nancy Wild Anderson: "One of my favorites."

Sara Ann: "I had him at both central and at North campus. He taught me Spanish and English. My wardrobe got a lot greener as I got extra credit for wearing green for some reason."

Darlene LeMire: "I loved him. He gave me A+ all the time. So sorry to heat of his passing."

Ellen Wojahn: "Good man, good teacher. Once at a Mexican restaurant some of the guys poured hot sauce into his Coke. He drank it. Didn’t crack at all, depriving the guys of their jollies."

Sean Odean: "Great guy. Friend of my dad who respected him very much. He left the world a better place."
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 9, 2020
Mr. Fitzpatrick was a wonderful human being! I enjoyed Spanish class with him as a teacher. Always happy and Fun.
Prayers to your family
Posted by John FitzPatrick on September 9, 2020
What a great guy... Uncle Tom! You will be in my thoughts and I will not forget you. Your smile and your kindness has no end. Thanks for allowing me into your circle. John W. FitzPatrick
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 9, 2020
I was one of Mr. Fitz's Spanish students at Sunrise Park Jr. High back in the early 1960's. After Don Miguel, the TV Spanish instructor, he was my initial Spanish influence as I became a Spanish teacher myself.  Thanks, Mr. Fitz! RIP
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 9, 2020
I had Mr. Fitzpatrick for Spanish at Sunrise Park Junior High. My favorite teacher. We all had to have spanish names and mine was Cecelia. Mr. Fitz would call me Cece for short. So many fond memories. RIP Mr. Fitz.

Cheryl (Gerkin) Russell
Austin, TX
Posted by Alyssa Harlow on September 9, 2020
Most of my memories of my Grandpa Tom are from when I was younger. Him sitting in his recliner, stroking his “cat”, which was actually a stuffed animal, with a totally straight face. This is the perfect example of his sense of humor- you never knew when he was being serious or joking. His humor was one of the things I loved most about him, but was also what made him intimidating. I have other memories from childhood of Grandpa wrestling with us grandkids, not afraid to get down on the ground and have us climb all over him. And of course, his tradition of gifting us two-dollar bills every year. Not just one or two, but stacks for each grandchild. It has been more eloquently said by my cousins, but the beauty in the gift of two-dollar bills was it was never about the money. It was a symbol, a theme, a story-starter, a tradition. It was poetic.

The last couple of years, I saw him less, as I was in graduate school in Boston. I wish I called more. But Grandpa was always so proud when I would talk to him. One of the things I’m most grateful for is how accepting he was of my husband, Ryan. Not surprising, considering how my dad’s Jewish parents always told me how accepting Grandpa Tom was of them, and how welcoming and open he and Grandma Rena were to their own family from a different culture and religion. As for my own husband, Grandpa loved that Ryan was pursuing a new career in teaching. It makes me laugh thinking about one of the last times I talked to Grandpa. He gave Ryan some teaching advice from his own long teaching career. He said, “tell the kids ¡Cállate la boca!”. 

I love you Grandpa and I will miss you. You created a huge, loving, amazing family. Thank you.
Posted by Rose Ogunleye (Ajibesin) on September 8, 2020
I remember my parents having a "highly classified" closed door discussion on who to choose as my godfather. My sister and I were eavesdropping right outside the door. As soon as they mentioned Tom's name, we blew our cover! CHOOSE TOM! It had to be Tom! To 5 year old me, he was funny, cool and sooo cute! He reminded me of Glenn Campbell, my favorite artist at the time. To my parents, he was a wonderful friend. Rest in peace my dear godfather. You were a great man and will certainly be missed.
Posted by Megan Fitzpatrick on September 7, 2020
When I was a young single mother, I brought my four year old daughter to visit Uncle Tom and Aunt Rena in Florida. As soon as we got there, we had full use of their car amongst other perks. Uncle Tom insisted that he really wanted to go to Sea World and came along. He then promptly paid for our tickets/food for the day. I know he didn’t really want to go, but he wanted to treat us and that was his way to do it. My daughter Allison fell in love with him that day, considering him just like her own Grandpa (his brother Mike). We both loved him dearly. His sense of humor and fun, the wry easy smile, and the way he put everyone around him at ease. He was a wonderful listener and loved to hear stories of all kinds. He was one of a kind. We will all miss him dearly.
-Niece Megan Fitzpatrick
Posted by Thomas Okuda Fitzpatrick on September 7, 2020
The world said goodbye to my grandpa, Tom Fitzpatrick, after whom I was named. He lived an incredibly full 89 years.

My grandparents fulfilled the America Dream, with each contributing to ensuring a comfortable life and raising six successful children. Life wasn’t always comfortable—necessitating frugality that, like so many other traits, passed along to their progeny.

A dream manifested through hard work, above-average intelligence, the benefit of the GI Bill, a supportive partner, and no doubt a bit of providence. Religion was a complicated subject and a topic I delighted in talking to him about.

He was raised as a Roman Catholic, and although I don’t think he wavered much from his belief in a higher power, the same cannot be said for the teachings of the church. His recollection of this spiritual journey taught me more about morality than any scripture ever did.

At the age of 34 he became the president of the local Human Relations Council he helped establish to address discrimination in the area. At the time, White Bear Lake, was a small homogenous suburb north of St. Paul, MN.

A local reporter asked him if the Council’s actions would make it more likely for black families to settle in this predominantly white community.

“We hope so,” he replied. “Right now our children are being raised in a sterile environment in some ways. They are being raised among other children of the same race, same income bracket, same culture, same interests, and same problems. They are completely unprepared for the cultural shock that comes when they enter the outside to mix with all kinds of people.” He was woke in 1965.

And expose his kids he did. He brought the whole family to Mexico to live for a year. While he was both an English and Spanish teacher, he told me once that it wasn’t until the year of true immersion that he became fluent and fully comfortable teaching Spanish.

He used the story of the Human Relations Council to teach me at an early age that as Fitzpatricks, we fight for the underdog -- a lesson I took to heart.

The council first started meeting at a local church. But antagonism toward their mission of racial justice caused the priest to no longer welcome their efforts. Their initiatives were not deterred.

He told me these lessons and so many others, often while also teaching me how to fix things around the house.

Grandpa had a gift for communication. He enjoyed writing limericks and other rhymes. His precision in thought even made his prose poetic. Stories were always told with the same demeanor, with no smile to distinguish a tall tale from truth. I quickly learned how to discern the two and appreciate his dry wit.

Last month, as I replaced a bathroom faucet with my son Gideon, I thought of Grandpa Tom. While I was gifted his name, I was also gifted with many enduring life lessons that I look forward to imparting to the next generation.

Posted by Scott VanOrsdel on September 6, 2020
So very sorry to hear of your Father’s passing. Mr Fitzpatrick like many people who served the WBL Community as teachers was a legend among his students & and non students. As we age those of us who are fortunate to get together and reminisce about our time at WBL often reflect on how lucky we were to receive such a great education and have outstanding teachers such as your Dad. While I took German I often felt left out listening to Kathy, Tom, Jim etc tell how much they enjoyed “Crazy Fritz” as a teacher and as a person. Every story was filled with admiration & respect! So very cool!

May God Bless his memory & his family!
Posted by Madeline McKinnon on September 6, 2020
I was lucky enough to have Grandpa in my life for 24 years. The emotional reaction I've had to his passing has shocked me, I didn't realize how much love, strength and fuel he provided me with. Every call he closed with "you're such a smart, ambitious, young woman, I'm so proud. Love you." Our calls drove me to try harder, he and Grandma saw me when sometimes I didn't see myself.

One of my favorite memories of Grandpa is when he and and Grandma drove Catherine and I to a bus stop in the middle of no where for a canoe camp, we were forced to go to by our Mom in Northern Minnesota. She decided we needed "toughening up" at 12 and 13. I think this is the Fitzpatrick in her, and she decided to send us to Minnesota??? to get this done.

G+G Fitz drove us to what was really a truck stop, worried, and bid us farewell. We came back with horror stories from the camp (I had to be emergency evacuated) and babied us for days. They took Cat and I to Burger King for dinner and we were in heaven.

Years later while in college, Catherine and I traveled to Winter Haven for a weekend and were alarmed how fragile Grandpa was. But he still took care of us, giving Cat and I money to visit Universal Studios for the day. I remember feeling sick leaving, wondering when I would see him again, if I would.

I saw him a few more times after that.
Miss you more than you know Grandpa Tom. 
Love,
Maddy
Posted by Stephanie Filreis on September 5, 2020
My grandfather was filled to the brim with a fire of someone not over 25. The patriarch, the icon, the cornerstone, “the boss.” I will desperately miss you imparting, invaluable wisdom, inspiring overwhelmingly awe and captivating legions with legendary stories. From my younger years, my grandfather created beautiful memories I will always treasure. My heart aches for one more poem, one last treasure hunt and a final hug. Grandpa, you gave the best hugs... we could feel your love through the embrace and we always felt safe when wrapped in your arms... we love you, we miss you and we will never forget your love... we will make you proud and take care of your beautiful queen.
Posted by Robert Fitzpatrick on September 5, 2020
This past weekend my paternal grandfather Tom Fitzpatrick left this earth, in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was born 89 years ago. The patriarch of a family that includes my father and his five siblings, seventeen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, our Grandpa Tom stood as a pillar of pride to his progeny. A leader in his community, a fighter for the underdog, a hardworking father, and a loving husband to my dear Grandma Rena, Grandpa Tom will be missed beyond words and remembered forever for his wry sense of humor and the principles of hard work and moral accountability that were instilled upon me from a young age and continue to guide the decisions I make in my adult life, both personally and politically.

In these past days since his passing, I have been filled with a renewed urgency to make him and my family proud, to fight the good fight, and to not let him down. I wish I could have told him one last time how deeply honored I am to bear the family name, to thank him for the wisdom he imparted, and to give him one last hug goodbye. I love you, Grandpa, and miss you dearly!
Posted by Stephen Bauman on September 4, 2020
It is with deep sadness that I eulogize my Father-in-law Tom Fitzpatrick. The relationship of 43 years that I was lucky to have with him was always one of utmost regard, respect and love. Tom had a knack for being liked and respected by all. Perhaps it was the sparkle of his Irish smile and the twinkle in his blue eyes, or perhaps his intelligence and openness to others.  For certain Tom was blessed with the focus and energy to care about others and the moral values to commit his time and resources to help them.  I witnessed countless times Tom initiated an inquiry into how others were “doing”, “feeling”, “managing”, “coping” or if they “could use any help.” This caring approach was evident when he had a nuanced understanding of the issues loved ones were having, as well as when he met strangers who appeared to be in need. He demonstrated this caring to “newbees” and old friends alike. This was especially evident at his winter retirement escape of 25 years at Carefree in Winter Haven Florida where he volunteered as Marketing Director and helped build that successful community of 500 units. His approach helped endear him to neighbors, the people who worked with and for him, and to strangers he would meet traveling, golfing and boating. 

Tom had a special knack for being able to clarify what was important to those he loved and the right approach to help them. He could usually “get right to the heart of a matter”.  Sometimes his help was to just listen, but many times his assistance included advice and direct involvement. He was always willing to share his time, skills, physical assets and financial support. Tom was a very accomplished person and proved helpful to all of us. He was welcomed in conversations, projects and moments of trial because he was so caring and willing to do what ever he could to resolve problems. He helped me through the challenges of buying homes, remodeling projects, cross country moves, the raising of three children, struggles with work, relationship challenges, mental and physical health problems, and buying and selling multiple vehicles, to name just a few.  At times he was a sage while at other times he was a rock for me to hold on to. 

Tom was a wonderful person to celebrate with.  He often expressed joy in the accomplishments of others and the family holidays and celebrations. He was always ready to “award” others with a financial boon including his famous gifts of $2 bills. He was also very well informed and a good conversationalist as well a good sport on the golf course. I don’t know if I will ever be able to use “Heavy Whipping Cream” without thinking of his great attraction to it. I believe I will always think of Tom when playing “Danny Boy” which we sang together on occasions.

I miss Tom terribly. That being said, I hope we will all take with us a bit of Tom’s loving and caring approach and see him living on in our caring. Please think of him and how he would help when you meet others on your path. I hope to honor his memory by trying to do for others the “kind things” Tom did for others, and hope to help them as he did me. Rest in Peace Tom Fitzpatrick. Lived and Loved Fully and Gave his All.
Posted by Kyoko Fitzpatrick on September 3, 2020
Tom was the best father-in-law to me. One morning at breakfast time when my family was staying at 1818 Elm St., I burned my toast. The moment I started wondering what to do with the charred slices, he said, “I’ll eat them.” He took them from me, scraped the blackened surfaces and ate them. With a smile on his face, he did not make me feel small at all.

Tom was a teaser. Before our first baby was born, he came up with an idea for a name if the baby were to be a girl. Knowing that many Japanese girls’ names end with ko, he said, “How about Tomko?” With the baby turning out to be a boy, his idea was not adopted. His first grandchild was instead named Thomas, after him.

Tom was an ardent learner. When he came to Japan at Christmas time in 1991, he soon memorized the Japanese phonetic alphabet (hiragana) with the help of Tom and Robbie. While driving for sightseeing, I heard him in the back seat enunciating “ku su ri.” He had seen a sign of a pharmacy and pronounced the word without knowing that it meant medicine. I was truly impressed.

I will cherish many, many good memories of him. Dad, Rest In Peace. 
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 2, 2020
One of my favorite teachers, and neighbor, My parents loved this guy, we lived at Willow and E. I used to babysit for his family, what great children. He taught me other things then classes. A great example for all of us. My prayers are with you all. Sherin Leibel Updyke
Posted by Kevin Fitzpatrick on September 2, 2020
People say that I look like, sound like and act like my father. But I will never fill those shoes. Dad had expectations for each of us 6 kids; you did not want to disappoint mom & dad. We tried to get good grades, stay out of trouble and do the chores without grumbling.

Dad liked cars and things with engines. He could fix anything - and this before a person could Google it & watch a YouTube video. My favorite stories:
1. Replacing the engine on the '66 Cadillac, in our front yard, using a borrowed winch hanging from a tree.
2. The Honda 450 motorcycle that he had to hide from mom for the first week.
3. Old tractors. Using a coffee can to repair a piston, and having me (age ~14) drive the old IH tractor 30 miles home, pulling the antique manure trailer. He also had Mark drive a different tractor home at the same age!
4. His Lexus. He loved his Lexus but only drove it a few thousand miles in the last 4 years.

Dad's legacy is wide. His biggest impact may have been that he expected his kids to figure life out, get an education (that we pay for), be respectful and make enough to support a family.
Posted by Colleen Fitzpatrick on September 1, 2020
Before Dad died I had no idea how I would react. In the past 3-4 days I think about him, who he was, what he taught me and stories. So many stories. Some moments, some years, some fragments, some
books. Ideas to honor his life:
-Pass out $2 bills
-Plant something, or go door to door leaving stuff you grew
-Have some butter
-Sell your son-in-law’s car
-Publish an ad selling your daughter’s car, surprising her
-Teach your kid to drive a manual transmission by giving her the keys to your truck
-Take your family to a Black Lives Matter protest
-Never smoke
-Shoot a pheasant out the kitchen window
-Build something
-Buy a new car
-Open your mind and heart
-Support the underdog
-Give or sell the shirt off your back
-Always be there for your daughter, even if it means hopping a plane and helping her chink a log home
Love you Dad.
Colleen
Posted by Mark Fitzpatrick on August 31, 2020
Farewell my lantern, my compass, my guide.
Lit path ever upward, gentle and straight;
Striving for rights, equal justice applied;
For those in need, truly compassionate.

For truth, science, and ecology he fought.
Detested bigots and those who defame;
Passed on same values to all those he taught;
Our duty: to live them, to honor his name.

Nine decades on earth, with Mom raised a clan.
Life rich in family; proud I’m his son.
He never feared death; it’s part of the plan;
Our Dad is at peace, his work here well done.

We bid adios – to the body, yes;
His spirit lives on, in all we profess.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 22, 2020
Wow the great pictures! Such an awesome teacher, now I see why. Such a fulfilled life!
You will be missed!
Posted by Sherin Updyke on September 13, 2020
The following comments were posted on the FB page "You know you are from White Bear Lake if..."

Nancy Wild Anderson
One of my favorites.

Sara Ann
I had him at both central and at North campus. He taught me Spanish and English. My wardrobe got a lot greener as I got extra credit for wearing green for some reason
Posted by Catherine Simpkins on September 12, 2020
We called him Tommy in earlier years. He was my big brother, Tom, who I always looked up to because he was so cool. 
We had a black and white dog named Butch, who I always called my dog; however, he became Tommy's dog because he seemed to like him better.

One winter when we had a lot of snow, and we lived above a tavern called Marty's in St. Paul, with a nice big porch on the back, Tommy decided to jump from the railing of the porch into the big snowbank below. He did, and didn't get hurt. It seems like my older sister also jumped into the snowbank. Being of sound mind (and a little scared) I didn't jump.

Another time when Tom launched his speedboat in the Mississippi River, he gave rides to the whole family, including mom and dad. He gave me and two of my friends a ride, also younger brother Mike and girlfriend Maureen.

He was a good brother and I will miss him.
Catherine Fitzpatrick Simpkins
Recent stories
Shared by Georgie Kimball on September 7, 2020
As a kid, Uncle Tom was somewhat mysterious, very much larger than life, and honestly, a bit intimidating to this nephew. He was a father, of course, and an uncle, of course, who brought his family to gatherings such as the one featured in the accompanying photo. 

But he seemed so much more than father/uncle. He was a teacher, for sure, but he spoke and taught Spanish! How exotic that was to me, with my limited exposure to things foreign. And packing up his family and going to Mexico? That was like a movie or something. Later, builder of townhomes? Farming? Beekeeping? And always vocal. I often wasn’t sure what was being discussed but I sensed he held strong opinions and stood his ground. 

Later, when I started teaching in White Bear Lake, the same district as my uncle, I heard stories from staff of the legendary Tom Fitzpatrick and his strong and progressive stances connected to educating and educators. 

I am proud to have been a fellow educator in the same district as Mr. Fitzpatrick, and I’m also proud that, albeit to a much smaller degree than he, I also include $2 bills in gifts to my nieces and nephews and grandchildren. 

Eternal peace to you, Uncle Tom!

Uncle Tom Shared His Gift for Words

Shared by Kristin Mishra on September 7, 2020
In continuing the celebration of Uncle Tom's gift of language, here is one humorous little ode he wrote spontaneously to commemorate the J. Kimball cabin privy.

Ode to an Outhouse

"The Kimball outhouse is really swell.
It doesn't have the usual smell.

An odorous whiff hangs here and there.
There's just enough to cut the air.

It's painted as nice as it could be.
You're all invited to look and see.

A nifty outhouse on Whiteface River
Where you can do your thing with nary a quiver."

Stylish Uncle

Shared by Mary Jo Norine on September 6, 2020
Really Uncle Tom????? Those pants? ....... and coordinating socks and shirt!!??
..... How wild is this??  As funny as it looks now, I must say, it really was the height of fashion in 1971-72.  You were cool, a cool uncle!  Your students must have really loved you.
I remember the Elm Street house and how fun it was for me to have so much room to explore.  I remember the closets of Colleen/Shannon's room connected to Peggy and into her room. Why do I remember that?  Probably because Peggy was not happy to see us! 
I can still hear your voice at a Kimball family reunion, excitedly greeting me and asking me lots of questions about what I have been doing, how the teaching is going, and how my family is..... you were always interested in all of the nieces and nephews.  A year or two ago I visited you at your townhouse.  You had difficulty getting up but you were so generous of your time and making sure I had something to drink and eat!  The host with the most! 
I love you and will miss my Irish Uncle.