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March 2, 2016

Mike Fitzgerald Gardener Extraordinaire, Real Patriot

Harry M. Covert

[Editor’s Note: The second article posted on today is the obituary of Donald “Mr. Fitz” “Mike” Fitzgerald who passed away on Sunday afternoon. It is with deep appreciation and sadness that we mark his passing.]


The Friday for Lunch Bunch. For the first time in more than three decades this choice aggregation will be silent and idle. Two days from now the food will have to wait, political conversations will be quieted. In honor of the co-founder of the pleasant weekly talk-a-thon, he will be praised amidst sadness and a celebration of a wonderful life.


Mike Fitzgerald, an octogenarian at 85, passed into the celestial climes on Sunday after a few weeks of illness. He and his family were proprietors of The Shamrock restaurant in Thurmont.


No roll is taken, no agenda is available, excepting a menu and lively banter. Mr. Fitz always had a twinkle in his eyes and was permanently up-to-date on all affairs of the political nature, all over Maryland, all over Frederick County and national things that affect us all.


He was a true-blue patriot. A family man, devout churchman, known and loved by everybody and one of those community people who did pay-it-forward. He was always concerned about people. When a young marine was killed last year on Route 15 helping a motorist, Mike pushed to help his family.


Respect and adulation are the best words to describe him. I want to add he was quite a gardener, too. The restaurant served fresh vegetables from his rows.


When vine-grown tomatoes began to appear every year, he used his own fertilizing style that made them big and juicy. For weeks he watched me dine on oysters and soft shell crabs. The moment I’d sit down, he’d whisper “the soft shells are great today.” He was right. They were the size of a hand and flown in; ditto for the oysters. And, I wouldn’t miss a cup of seafood chowder or Maryland crab soup and others.


Then everybody at the table would have plates of freshly sliced tomatoes. Some of us enjoyed fried green tomatoes.


Mr. Fitz had the gardening down to a science along with his other mercurial talents. He would find loads of fallen leaves for his crops. This was his secret.


While all of the gabbing ensued, he listened intently, sometimes adjusting a hearing device, but he knew what was going on.


He also loved spy stories, especially those of Americans winning. He suggested we’d like to see “Bridge of Spies.” He and co-founder of the Friday for Lunch Bunch – Russell Delauter – had driven to Gettysburg for the movie and got a reduced ticket price.


Over the years those who sought public offices local, state and national always dropped by the Friday for Lunch Bunch. Mr. Fitz always had good questions, expecting good answers.


Now, he loved Thurmont and over the years as he and his wife of 68 years raised their family, he was involved in every facet of county life. He wasn’t the least bit braggadocios. He supported vast efforts for young people and others. Lots of youngsters benefitted from his largesse. He had his political causes. He did have distinct opinions and read everything.


I feel sorry that many people didn’t have the chance to meet him, learn from his life and enjoy his wisdom and joy. I’m sure tickled he lit up my life. Now Mr. Delauter is the only founding member of the luncheon group who still attends regularly. What delight Mr. Fitz and Russ brought – fun and games and facts.


Mr. Fitz saw me sprinkle salt on those magnificent and yummy tomatoes. Almost in unison he and Mr. Delauter suggested “use sugar, real sugar.” Since they were boys, I learned tomatoes with sugar was the crème-de-la-crème.


Yes, all politics is local and wasn’t invented by a New England congressman. I know it is alive and well in Mr. Fitz’ beloved Thurmont and at The Shamrock. Here’s an aside: every attender at the Friday merriments always pay their way, even Mike Fitzgerald, who owned the joint. We’ll miss him but always with wonderful memories of him.


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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