2006-07-13 / Obituaries

John Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald John Fitzgerald John Warner Fitzgerald, former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, died Friday, July 7, 2006, at Mackinac Straits Hospital in St. Ignace following an extended illness. The respected jurist was born in Grand Ledge in 1924 and was 81 when he died.

The Fitzgerald family has maintained a summer cottage on the East Bluff on Mackinac Island since 1961.

"He was one of the most stable, patient, and calm advisers I've ever known," said a family friend Bill Porter of Mackinac Island. "He was a good friend to Mackinac."

Justice Fitzgerald, the son of the late Michigan Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald and Queena Warner Fitzgerald, pursued a career in public office beginning in 1958, when he was elected to the Michigan State Senate. He was elected to the original Michigan Courts of Appeals in 1964 and was appointed in 1973 to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor William Milliken for a one-year term. He subsequently was elected to a full eight-year term, but did not seek reelection after that. In his final year on the bench, in 1982, he was elected chief justice.

Public service in the Fitzgerald family spans four generations. Justice Fitzgerald's grandfather, John W. Fitzgerald, served in the Michigan House of Representatives in the late 1800s. His father was governor in the 1930s, and his son, Frank M. Fitzgerald, served 12 years in the Michigan House of Representatives and later as commissioner of the state Financial and Insurance Services from 1999 to 2003.

Justice Fitzgerald was on the original board of directors of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and taught the first class of the fledgling school in 1983. He later resigned from the board to take a position there as professor of law. At the time of his death, he was still associated with the law school.

"He was an unassuming, compassionate man who took great pride in his family," said his son, Adam Fitzgerald. "Even though he was in powerful positions, he never sought the limelight."

Justice Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was graduated from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan Law School. He was affiliated with the First Congregational, United Church of Christ of Grand Ledge and the Little Stone Church, Union Congregational on Mackinac Island.

He was also a member of the Mackinac Island Yacht Club and a charter member of Mackinac Associates.

He is survived by his wife, Lorabeth; two sons and their families, Eric Stiles of Denver and Adam Warner and Lisa Sell of Denver; a daughter-in-law, Ruth Davey Fitzgerald, and two grandchildren, Ellen Lora and John Wesley Fitzgerald. A niece with whom he was very close, Emily Fullerton, and her husband, Paul, of St. Ignace, also survive.

Mr. Fitzgerald was preceded in death by his son, Frank Moore Fitzgerald, who died in December 2004.

A memorial was held at Grand Ledge Congregational Church in Grand Ledge Tuesday, July 11, and the family received friends at the long-time Fitzgerald residence in Grand Ledge.

A memorial at Little Stone Church on Mackinac Island will be held later this summer.

Arranging the services was the Holihan-Atkin Funeral Home of Grand Ledge. Memorial contributions can be made to Mackinac Associates, PO Box 567, Mackinaw City, MI 49701.

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