‘Senator’ was unparalleled in goodness

Jack Fitzpatrick is gone. Frankly, I loved that man. As my mother used to say of some Republicans, “He was the best kind.”

I thought he would live forever, and even though he was in his 80s, he died way too early. He was so much fun — great to talk to, so honest, so funny, so generous — so good in every sense of the word. Working alongside his wonderful wife, Jane, Jack was the foundation of the Berkshires. No one ever asked the Fitzpatricks for help for a worthy cause and came away empty handed. Their generosity astounded me.

Jack told me about a couple of groups that had approached the “Fitzies” asking for help. He said he wasn’t going to give them any money yet when the institutions opened, there on the wall was recognition of major support from Jack and Jane.

When I met Jack, he would inevitably say in that great drawl of his, “You know, I hear you on the radio and I’ve seen you on the television and I read you in the papers and you’re just beginning to get it right.” I would always crack up. I can’t tell you how many words I’ve written about Jack over the years, but trust me, it’s been a lot.

I have always said that the Red Lion Inn is the vortex of the Berkshires. When your relatives come to town, you had just better take them to the historical and beautiful Red Lion. Every time we’ve had a fund drive on WAMC, Jack and Jane — and now the wonderful Nancy (their daughter) — have been there, contributing a weekend or a stay at their Red Lion. Over the years, they have sponsored the Tanglewood concerts that the station plays.

One night a year or so ago on a particular July 25, Roselle asked me where I wanted to go and I said the Red Lion. So we went in and sat down, and on the way in we passed Senator and Mrs. Fitzpatrick and stopped for a moment to say hello. We mentioned my birthday and we sat down in the dining room.

I suppose it was just a sign of their way of treating everyone, but complimentary drinks showed up and after dinner, there was a small birthday cake. I turned around and Jack and Jane were sitting a table away, watching.

There was the requisite “Happy Birthday,” and when the singing stopped, Arlo Guthrie’s wife, Jackie, came running in from the Widow Bingham Bar and excitedly told us that she knew it was me. That’s because we share a birthday. So she went back and brought Arlo in, and I led him over to the Fitzies, forgetting for a moment that Alice’s Restaurant was all about Stockbridge.

Apparently, they hadn’t seen each other for a while and you could see the love between the two men. The next day, I got a phone call saying how much Jack appreciated that very small and inconsequential act of making the reunion happen. That’s just the way these people are.

Jack was a superb political practitioner. He’ll always be the “Senator” to me. He trained generations of Republicans who took up where he left off. One of them, Jane Swift, rose to be governor.

There are thousands of Jack Fitzpatrick stories. Everybody has one. His loyalty to Jane and their kids was legendary. I am one who believes in character. Jack was one and is one. He treated his employees the way all bosses ought to treat the people who work for them, and they loved him for it. Some people leave a legacy behind, and in his case he has left an idea of what we humans can become. This world would be a lot better if we could all be more like Jack Fitzpatrick.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 7/30/11

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