As published in the Record Journal Tuesday December 18, 2012
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD - Throughout his 40 years in the town’s public schools, Richard Fitzsimmons touched the lives of thousands of children.
“He was a very good person, very dedicated to the children and he really valued the teachers in his building,” said former School Superintendent Joseph Cirasuolo.
Fitzsimmons died Saturday after a long battle with skin cancer. He was 77.
After beginning his teaching career in 1957, Fitzsimmons moved to Moran Middle School a year later and taught social studies for 13 years. He later got into administration, serving as assistant principal at Robert Earley Middle School and becoming principal of Pond Hill School in 1981. Five years later he was named principal of Rock Hill School, a post he held until his retirement in 1997.
When he retired, Fitzsimmons told the Record-Journal he had mixed emotions.
“I’ll miss the kids and the staff,” he said. “Over the years I’ve been blessed to have wonderful people to work with. They didn’t work for me. We worked together.”
Fitzsimmons’ wife, Deborah, said her husband was a sports enthusiast, coaching football and track and officiating high school and college football and basketball games. He and a group of friends would regularly attend Yale University football games. Deborah Fitzsimmons said it wasn’t uncommon for past students or players to come up to her husband to say hello or share a memory. “He was so proud of them all,” she said. The couple met at Southern Connecticut State College and was married for 55 years.
“He loved all the kids,” Deborah Fitzsimmons said. “He had great staff at every school he was at and great parent support.”
Despite his busy schedule, Richard Fitzsimmons was a fixture at his children’s athletic events, his wife said. His son, James, said his father loved the school system and he only retired after prodding from his wife.
James Fitzsimmons said his children attend Rock Hill School and many of the staff there worked with his father. When he travels around town, he often runs into people who remember his dad.
“He left a legacy,” James Fitzsimmons said. “He was devoted to the town and its kids.”
Carol Mikulski, interim principal of Cook Hill School, worked with Richard Fitzsimmons as a teacher at Rock Hill before she became principal of Highland School in 1990. She said he guided her toward becoming an administrator.
“He was a very nice guy and a very dear friend,” she said. “He was a people person and was very friendly and outgoing. He was well liked by everybody and always there for anything a teacher needed.”
Richard Fitzsimmons began his career quietly, but when he retired from Rock Hill School he was treated like a rock star. Staff planned a surprise send off including a limousine and wild cheering. The library and computer lab were named in his honor.
“I think Mr. Fitzsimmons is nice and very kind,” second-grader Brittany Rosa told the Record-Journal during a December 1997 retirement party for the administrator. “He always comes into our classrooms and we give him hugs and stuff.”
Obituary - Richard F. Fitzsimmons
WALLINGFORD - Richard F. Fitzsimmons, ""Fitz,"" 77, of Wallingford, the beloved husband of 55 years to Deborah Bradley Fitzsimmons passed away Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 with his loving family by his side after a long and courageous battle with cancer at the Masonicare Hospice Center.
Fitz was born in New Haven, Dec. 20, 1934, a son of the late Eugene ""Whitey"" Fitzsimmons and Catherine Cannon Fitzsimmons. Fitz received his bachelor's degree at Southern Connecticut State University and furthered his studies at the University of Hartford. He began his 40 year teaching career for the Wallingford Board of Education as an Elementary Physical Education Teacher in 1957. He also coached football at Lyman Hall High School, a year later Fitz moved to the new Moran Middle School, where he taught Social Studies for 13 years. He served as Principal at the Robert Early Middle School, served as Principal at Pond Hill School and later at Rock Hill Elementary School until his retirement in 1997. He enjoyed officiating at high school and college football and basketball games. Most of all, he loved spending time with his family and friends. He was a former member of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Committee and had been named Wallingford Administrator of the Year. He loved to travel, and spending time at the family residence on Cape Cod. On many Saturdays, Fitz could be found at the Yale Bowl with his friends, and was also an avid Boston Red Sox fan. He was a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima Church for many years, was a past board member of the Wallingford Credit Union and a member of the Wallingford Lodge of Elks No. 1365.
In addition to his wife, Deborah, he is survived by his daughter, Debra F. Sitter and her husband, Steven T., of Williams Bay, Wis.; his son, James C. Fitzsimmons and his wife, Megan B., of Wallingford; his four grandchildren, Caitlin D. Sitter, Jamie A. Sitter, Colin A. Fitzsimmons and Sean A. Fitzsimmons; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Gene Fitzsimmons. Richard was very proud of the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.
His family would like to thank the staff of the Masonicare Hospice Center for their loving care and compassion.
His family will receive relatives and friends in The Wallingford Funeral Home, 809 North Main St. Ext., Tuesday, Dec. 18, from 4 until 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Dec. 19, from The Wallingford Funeral Home at 9 a.m. when the funeral cortege will proceed to Most Holy Trinity Church, where a Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Interment will be in St. John Cemetery in Wallingford. In lieu of flowers, gifts in his memory may be sent to the Masonicare Home Health Care and Hospice, 33 North Plains Industrial Road, Wallingford, CT. 06492 or the Wallingford Senior Center, 238 Washington Street, Wallingford, CT. 06492.