Michael Martin Fitzpatrick, 65, of Newton passed in peace Monday, May 13th, 2019 at Carolina Caring. His story began April 26, 1954 in Washington, DC, where he was born the fourth child of the late Dr. and Mrs. William H. (Eileen) Fitzpatrick of Springfield, Virginia. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister, Kathryn Fitzpatrick, of Springfield, Virginia.
Michael was born with Down syndrome. At that time, it was not uncommon for people with special needs to be institutionalized. His parents opted to keep him and afford him every opportunity available. He quickly became the center of the family; and the center of his life was always his family.
At age 3, Michael was the youngest child ever to be accepted into the Alexandria School for Retarded Children. Later he went to the Joseph Williard School where he received therapy in speech and motor skills. He was accepted at the Cooperative School for the Handicapped at age 16- the usual cut-off age for services to students with special needs. This cooperative facility was established and operated by parents of the handicapped. Private and public sectors were instrumental in providing the support for the care needed for these children so as help them meet their full potential. Later the financial responsibility was assumed by Fairfax County. Michael’s brief stint into the political arena came several years later when he and his parents were among a handful of people present when the bill to establish the Northern Virginia Training School was introduced; they sat patiently from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM that day while it was debated. Ultimately, the bill that resulted in a regional center for Fairfax County was passed. Although his political career was brief, it had a lasting effect. At age 21, Michael became one of the first three students in the multi-handicapped program ever to be awarded a certificate by the Fairfax Board of Education and signed by the Superintendent of Schools.
Michael lived with his parents. After his parents death in 1998 he moved into a residential setting in Northern Virginia. He also attended a day program. His specialty was being part of the clean-up crew at Shakey’s Pizza. He vacuumed Monday through Friday and ate pizza every day for lunch. In the afternoon he would visit the Animal Shelter and play with the pets; he was a happy camper. He moved to a residential facility here in Catawba County in 2014 to be closer to his surviving family. He loved living in Maiden. The Maiden Fire Department brought Santa on the fire truck to the group home every year. That yearly visit, along with the treat bags always made him smile.
Michael did not communicate verbally. There was the occasional 4-letter word uttered when all the coca- cola was gone (none of the family admits responsibility for teaching him such language). Despite his limited verbal skills, he was quite capable of making his needs and wants known. His facial expressions were quite animated. He had the biggest heart. He knew when you were sad and when you were happy. His smile said so much. And he loved to see you smile as well. He wanted everyone to be happy. He loved to give bear hugs. He loved a huge gathering- especially if it included a meal and anything chocolate for dessert. He loved to be scared; scary movies, Halloween costumes and, of course, Halloween candy. He loved simple things, a deck of cards, strands and strands of shiny beads, being tickled, a hot cup of coffee, a cold coke, ice-cream, Beatles music, and just sitting quietly with family. He loved to smile at little children. The fact they stared at him in childish question never deterred him from winking and blowing kisses. He had a reverence for life. He was compassionate, caring, giving and most of all, a very loving individual. He will be missed beyond measure.
Michael is survived by his sister, Patty (Johnny) Tucker of Newton, NC and brother, Bill (Lynn) Fitzpatrick of Fairport, NY. He was also the proud uncle to Rebecca (Dave) Cook of Ashburn, Virginia, and the Tucker children; Michael, Stormy, Tim, Kiki, Kevin, Cheryl and Maureen. He was also a great uncle to Jemma Tucker and Zachary and Madison Cook. He loved each of them so much.
The family gratefully acknowledges everyone involved in caring for and helping our brother. This includes Carolina Caring, the staff of Catawba Valley Medical Center, Dr. Garland Hughes, and the many, many friends who poured out their kindness and compassion during this time.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Maiden Volunteer Fire Department to continue their annual Santa Claus visitation ministry. If you are unable to donate then please consider completing a random act of kindness. Certainly your kindness and compassion will make you smile. In turn, we know Michael will smile and that was what his life was about.
A Celebration of Life will be scheduled at a later date. Internment will be at Mount Comfort, Alexandria, Virginia.
Please sign the online guestbook at www.jenkinsfuneralhome.net. The Fitzpatrick family has entrusted arrangements to Jenkins Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Newton 828-464-1555.
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