Newfoundland suffered a great loss Monday with the death of businessman and tireless community volunteer John Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick may be best known for his successful business, Fitzpatrick’s Auctioneering, which he established in 1978. What started as just one man and his pickup truck soon grew into a thriving and well-known fixture in the community.
Fitzpatrick worked tirelessly for his business, right up until selling it to his longtime friend and associate Blair Loveless two years ago.
Loveless got involved with Fitzpatrick’s Auctioneering in 1989, just after graduating from high school, and worked with Fitzpatrick ever since. He remembers his tremendous work ethic, and the trust and investment he had in his staff, many of whom were students.
“Education was everything with John. He wanted you to improve,” said Loveless. “That was John’s big thing. You are going to be continuing your education, that’s fine, so here’s the keys for when you get off school at 5. He had a lot of trust in his employees.”
Loveless says that throughout their more than two decades together, Fitzpatrick was always there with friendship, guidance and support.
“He was almost a second father,” said Loveless. “Any time I needed advice, I would just go to him and he’d always have advice for me. Especially when I purchased the company, if there was anything I was unsure of in the last two years, I knew I could always pick up the phone and he’d point me in the right direction.”
Friends remember Fitzpatrick as tremendously generous, having been involved with countless charity and volunteer projects in the province.
A longtime member of the St. John’s Rotary Club, Fitzpatrick served as president in 2004-05, and was named a Paul Harris Fellow — the highest honour to be bestowed upon a Rotary member.
“John cared for the underdog. He was out to help those who couldn’t help themselves,” said Richard Young, a fellow member of the Rotary Club and Fitzpatrick’s close friend since 1988.
As an extremely dedicated member of the club, Fitzpatrick spearheaded the Rotary Read-A-Long program, made Christmas hampers and was heavily involved in projects such as Access House, a transitional home for people with mental illness.
He also lent his time, resources and expertise to the Stella Burry Foundation, the Iris Kirby House and numerous local churches, among many other community organizations and charities.
Fitzpatrick was past-president of the Auctioneers Association of Canada, past-president of the St. John’s Lions Club and retired from the Cadet Service of Canada with a rank of major after 17 years of service. He was also an avid golfer and enjoyed Ski-Dooing.
Former mayor of Harbour Grace Don Coombs worked with Fitzpatrick for the past 21 years on the annual auctions in support of the Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation, an organization that raises funds to purchase hospital equipment.
Fitzpatrick was instrumental in establishing the yearly auctions and helped the foundation raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was deeply committed to the foundation, and looked forward every year to putting the auction together. Coombs remembers one year when a snowstorm broke out the day of the auction — yet Fitzpatrick still drove in from St. John’s without a second thought.
“He never charged us five cents, never took nothing in return, just to see that we were raising money for people who were sick,” said Coombs, who remembers Fitzpatrick as being humble, quiet but humorous, and constantly professional.
“He should have been recognized more. But his personality, being the quiet person that he was, that’s what he would want.
“I would consider him more than a good friend. He was everything. He was a good friend, somebody you could bounce stuff off. He was like family. And I think anybody that knew John knew him as a family person.”
Fitzpatrick was deeply devoted to his family, and had a deep love for his wife, five children and eight grandchildren. Although he was diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago, he remained active in the community and with his family throughout his short battle.
“He was just a great individual,” said Coombs. “He was an icon in this province and is surely going to be missed. There’s only one John Fitzpatrick.”