Charles Fitzpatrick

Charles Fitzpatrick ( )

Charles Leonard Fitzpatrick, a retired postal administrator and Navy veteran who survived an emergency landing in a storm off the Aleutian Islands during World War II, died of heart disease July 7 at his Catonsville home. He was 92.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Chelsea Terrace in Walbrook, he was the son of Edwin Abell Fitzpatrick, a Baltimore Sun editor, and Sally Emma Bolander, a homemaker. He was a graduate of Forest Park High School.

Mr. Fitzpatrick joined the Navy during World War II and was assigned to an aviation education program. He became a flier and received his wings at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station and was sent to Attu Island in the Aleutians, the archipelago off Alaska, in 1944.

He flew on 800-mile-long bomber missions from Attu to Paramushiro, Japan. In a lengthy memoir, he recalled that Attu "had just been taken back from the occupied Japanese forces." He called the Aleutian Islands "a very unforgiving and harsh area" with poor weather and "long winter nights that last 18-19 hours."

Mr. Fitzpatrick said he flew on missions every third day in a Vega Ventura, a twin-engine bomber.

On March 17, 1945, he was returning to base when his plane encountered mechanical, electrical and radio problems. He and the crew were forced to ditch in a storm at night off the island of Kodiak. After crashing into the Bering Sea about a mile offshore, they inflated a raft and discharged flares.

Mr. Fitzpatrick recalled in his memoir that Steven Zdepski, a missionary, "saw the landing lights of the plane sink beneath the waves." He persuaded native Aleutians to try a rescue attempt in a small boat used to carry mail. They plucked six men from the raft and saved another crew member floating in his life vest.

Mr. Fitzpatrick remained active in the Navy Reserves and flew out of Norfolk, Va., and Baltimore until 1962.

About 10 years ago, Mr. Fitzpatrick won approval to have the little-known Aleutian Campaign recognized on the wall at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

After the war, he attended the University of Baltimore School of Law and became a Baltimore County deputy zoning commissioner. He was later a supervisor in the county Department of Public Works and an administrative assistant to Baltimore County Executive Christian H. Kahl.

He was a past president of the Ridgeway Democratic Club. During then-Sen. John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1960, Mr. Fitzpatrick helped the candidate as he stumped through Baltimore and Baltimore County. He organized Senator Kennedy's routes.

"We met Senator Kennedy about where the Howard County fairgrounds are located," he wrote. "He was a charmer and was all personality, with a most infectious laugh and smile."

Mr. Fitzpatrick also helped arrange a Kennedy rally at the old Hutzler's department store at Westview. "The crowd was so large it was hard to keep your hat on your head," he recalled.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said the candidate "never lost his smile throughout it all."

He also helped find a rest spot for Senator Kennedy when his back began giving him trouble after the rally. Mr. Fitzpatrick, then an aide to the Baltimore County executive, walked into a mom-and-pop store in Arbutus and asked the owners if the candidate could rest there. They were delighted and Senator Kennedy stretched out on a sofa. He asked for a cup of tea, Mr. Fitzpatrick recalled in his memoir.

Mr. Fitzpatrick remained active in Democratic politics and was named to the State Central Committee in 1963. He declined to change his party affiliation when Republican Spiro T. Agnew took office.

He then joined the Postal Service and supervised real estate, buildings and facilities in several states. Family members said he oversaw more than 3,000 local post offices.

After his retirement about 25 years ago, Mr. Fitzpatrick began writing his autobiography. When completed in 2001, it was 640 pages and was published by Gateway Press.

Services were private.

In addition to his wife of more than 69 years, the former Betty Moore, who edited the autobiography, survivors include a son, Andrew Fitzpatrick of Westminster; two daughters, Corrie March of Abingdon and Ann Doggett of Randallstown; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com