Jerry Patrick Fitzgerald, 80, passed away on Sunday, November 28, 2021, surrounded by family at his home in Mosinee, Wis.
Jerry was born December 26, 1940, in Ashland, Wis. After graduating from DePadua High School, he attended Northland College, earning football All-American honors as a Senior. After graduating from Northland College in 1962, Jerry took his first teaching position at Gibraltor High School in Door County, where he taught math and was the head coach for football and track. After two years at Gibraltor, he took the same positions at Stratford High School.
It was in Stratford where he met the love of his life, Ginger. He and Ginger celebrated their 53rd year of marriage on November 2.
After several years in Stratford, Jerry had earned his master’s degree in administration from UW-Superior. He then accepted the position of assistant principal and head football coach at Tomah High. In 1974, Jerry and Ginger moved their family to Stevens Point, where Jerry was named the vice-principal and head football coach at SPASH.
During his 36-year coaching career, including 26 years at SPASH, Coach Fitz compiled an overall coaching record of 230-117-2, making him the sixth winningest coach in the history of the state at the time of his retirement. From 1977 to 1993, SPASH had 17 consecutive winning seasons. The WIAA now allows any team with a record of .500 or better to earn a berth into the playoffs. Previously, only conference champions were chosen for the playoffs. If today’s current rule would have been in place, SPASH would’ve had one of the state’s longest streak of playoff appearances at 17 straight years. If this rule were in place during the entirety of his 36 years as a head coach, his teams would have only missed the playoffs seven times. In 2006, he was rightfully inducted to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame, joining his Uncle and mentor Roy Melvin. He was inducted into the SPASH Hall of Fame in 2018.
Jerry was proud to be an educator, and according to him, “never worked a day in his life.” One of his greatest gifts (and there were many) was his ability to connect with students and find ways to motivate them to achieve their greatest potential—while embracing each day and each challenge with infectious enthusiasm. He found particular interest in helping anyone who needed a second chance, always willing and able to be the one to believe in them.
Jerry was one of the founders of the Stevens Point Alternative High School in 1988, and it remains a model program in the state of Wisconsin. In 1996, he created the Stevens Point Youth Area Football program, which still provides opportunities for youth in the Stevens Point area. The net result of his professional work and commitment to his community is two generations of students who were forged with the character, resolve, wisdom, and confidence to achieve whatever they were willing to work for.
Jerry had many passions, including duck hunting, carving, lifting weights, vacationing in Florida, making jewelry, serving at St. Stephen Church, and boating. But his real passion was his family. To his children, he was their everything. Guiding them through life with encouragement, wisdom, and all the love in the world. To his grandchildren, he was strong, determined, giving, talented, artistic, dedicated, and a wonderful example of how to love your family. And to his wife of 53-years, he was the love of her life, her very best friend, and her all-time hero.
Jerry Fitzgerald lived his life to the fullest, positively impacting each person he met. His physical presence will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of those he touched.
Jerry is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Ginger; his children, Kelly (Paul) Caufield, Shannon (Brian) Fuller, Kevin (Lindsay Rosicky) Fitzgerald; seven grandchildren, Brock Caufield, Cole Caufield, Kaitlyn Fuller, Anaka Fuller, Grace Fuller, Olivia Fitzgerald, Emma Fitzgerald; and his sister Mary Lou Armstrong. Jerry is preceded in death by his parents Walter and Helen Fitzgerald, his brothers Robert Fitzgerald, John Fitzgerald, and Tom Fitzgerald, and sisters, Rita Miller, Sally Kontny, and several nieces and nephews.
A public visitation will take place at the Shuda Funeral Home in Stevens Point on Saturday, December 11th from 9-11:30 a.m. As a courtesy, we ask that masks be worn at the visitation. A private family funeral will follow at 1 p.m.
For the last 20 years, Jerry fought a valiant battle with a devastating disease called PSP, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. He was brave and courageous each and every day, continuing to show all of us how to be strong when given life’s greatest challenges. His love and teachings will be in our hearts forever.
In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated.
Memorials made to the family (attention: Ginger Fitzgerald) will be given in Jerry’s name to an organization that provides research and education to help others suffering from PSP. Lastly, we have endless gratitude for the wonderful care provided by Compasses Hospice, Interim Home Health, Will and Jane Olson, Connie Lehr, and Kevin Kirvida.
Online condolences may be sent by visiting www.shudafuneral.com.