Two great women left vast legacies

Two wonderful women have passed. The first, Jane Fitzpatrick, was one hell of a lady. She and her late husband, Jack, were the First Family of the Berkshires. Jane has never received the credit she deserves for her business acumen. Not only did she start Country Curtains, but she took the Red Lion and restored it to its place as the crown jewel of the Berkshires.

I like to tell people that you can’t understand the Berkshires until you’ve been to the Red Lion. Jane always appeared to be more formal than Jack (The Senator). I really liked talking to him — he was one of those larger-than-life kind of people. I think of Jane as almost magisterial. I made a point of always paying my respects to her whenever I saw her at an event and she was always nice to me. Put another way, you don’t walk up to the Queen of England and slap her on the back but she really did like people.

No one in the Berkshires gave more to her community than Jane Fitzpatrick. She had such a major role at the Berkshire Theatre Festival that it is hard for me to conceive how the enterprise could have stayed alive without her.

If you look carefully at the names of people who support our nonprofits, you will always see the Fitzpatricks’ names. There wasn’t a cause that they didn’t support. I simply can’t believe the breadth of their generosity. It was never-ending. It was extraordinary. It was part of their humanness and decency. In addition to providing for their accomplished children, they provided for all of us.

The second incredible woman, Marge Gulick, was a real force in our area. People love their pets and Marge, a terrific veterinarian who set a standard for women in the profession, took care of them. She sure took care of the Chartocks’ animals and her kids have continued to do so.

She was smart and literate and could be acerbic. On more than one occasion, she called me up to contest something I had written or said. Marge really knew her stuff. When we got to the Berkshires (part-time) in 1969, she and her husband, Bill, ran the practice. In those days there were a lot of large animals around. Bill handled the big ones and some of the smaller ones, and Marge specialized in the little ones.

I can tell you that our dogs loved her and we did, too. More than one person at her memorial service mentioned that there was no dog, big or small, that didn’t know not to mess with Marge. She was in charge and it didn’t take the animals who came to her practice long to figure that out.

She was extraordinarily active in good causes including the Girl Scouts and St. James Church. As far as we are concerned, she was one of the people who cement a town. She was opinionated and thoughtful and a character. She must have been doing something right because she lived for 92 years.

Her kids were devoted to her. Her son, Don, took over the practice with his wife, Claire, and they are both incredibly sensitive and wonderful. When the kids come out being sensitive and wonderful, you know that the parents had something to do with it. Her kids had to learn to contest with her because, as I have already said, she had her own ideas and stuck with them.

She was really a force in our community. She helped break the glass ceiling in a field that now has a lot of women in it. We will miss Marge. Her passing brings a lot of memories to all of us.

These two women really made a difference in all of our lives. We were lucky to have them.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 11/16/13

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