James Aloysius Fitzgerald, the former vice president of a commercial credit and leasing company, died of complications from a stroke at his Perry Hall home on Tuesday. He was 92.
Mr. Fitzgerald was a World War II veteran and father to seven children. In retirement, he kept working in the hardware department of a general store and was known for his ability to fix household items.
"My dad really looked at his military career as a defining moment," said a son, Mark Fitzgerald of Monkton. "He said when he went over to fight in the European Theater, he made a promise to himself that 'If I ever make it back I'm going do something with my life, I'm really going to try to accomplish some things.' I think that's the reason when he came home he went to college and became a very successful businessman."
Mr. Fitzgerald was born in Philadelphia in 1925 as the eldest child of John and Mary Fitzgerald. During the Great Depression, Mr. Fitzgerald's father took work at the Atlantic Richfield Oil Co. in Mexico, leaving him to help watch over five younger siblings. "He had to grow up a lot sooner than most kids his age," Mark Fitzgerald said.
In 1943, Mr. Fitzgerald graduated from St. Thomas Moore Catholic High School and joined the U.S. Army, leaving for England on a troop transport ship.
Mr. Fitzgerald served from 1943 to 1945 as a rifleman and a tank commander in Company C, 50th Armored Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division, under the command of Gen. George S. Patton. His combat experience included the Battle of the Bulge and he was awarded four Bronze Stars, amid other honors.
Mr. Fitzgerald enrolled at Georgetown University in 1948, earning a bachelor's degree from the School of Foreign Service. In 1950, he married the former Rosemarie Schulz, who became a homemaker and helped raise their seven children.
In 1953, Mr. Fitzgerald joined CIT Credit & Leasing, which provided loans and leases for heavy construction equipment. Seven years later, he moved to the Baltimore area to open the company's Baltimore/Washington regional office, where he was vice president.
Mark Fitzgerald said there were companies that would have failed if his father had not taken a chance on them and provided financing for them to buy equipment and continue operating. Many of his customers became lifelong friends.
"One of dad's customers told him about how their business was struggling, it was hard for them to get a line of credit," Mark Fitzgerald said. "He worked out the deal, gave them a line of credit. It was on a personal guarantee. [The customer] said, Mark, we didn't have the collateral to justify the loan. If your dad hadn't lent us the money I think our business would have failed."
After retiring from CIT Credit & Leasing in 1989, Mr. Fitzgerald worked in the hardware department at Stebbins Anderson in Towson. He was known as "Mr. Fix It."
His family said the nickname was fitting with his love of house projects and tools.
"Monday through Friday he went to work in a business suit; on the weekends he was always in his khakis and T-shirts and he would do projects," Mark Fitzgerald said.
Mark Fitzgerald said his father would sometimes go into a Stebbins Anderson customer's home after work to help them install something correctly if he thought they needed help.
A daughter, Leslie Malooly of Towson, said Mr. Fitzgerald had "a desire to make things right for people not only in repairing things but in situations."
"I could see that with families and friends and strangers as well," she said. "He had a desire to make things right in people's lives."
In his free time, Mr. Fitzgerald enjoyed sailing, hunting and fishing, and he belonged to various sailing and hunting clubs. He also enjoyed reading and owned more than 400 books on World War II and Gen. Patton.
Mrs. Malooly said her father loved celebrating his Irish heritage on St. Patrick's Day. She said he was thrilled when she had a child born on that day. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Baltimore was always a big family event.
Michael Malooly of Sparks said his grandfather had a big personality and was very sociable.
When they were out together, everybody seemed to know who he was," Mr. Malooly said. "Someone would say 'Hey, it's Fitz!'"
A funeral Mass will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Ursula Church at 8801 Harford Road.
In addition to his wife, son, daughter and grandson, Mr. Fitzgerald is survived by his children James Fitzgerald of Jacksonville, Fla., Karen Ebert of Parkton, Kimberly Shalan of Mount Airy, Thomas Fitzgerald of Perry Hall, and Noel Fitzgerald of Timonium; 21 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and 14 nieces and nephews.