In Re: John Fitzgerald
Change of Venue Taken. Goes to Court of Last Resort
Comrade - Brother - Friend
Kendall County Record, February 28, 1917.
John Fitzgerald passed to the Court Beyond on the night of February 21, 1917, after a week's illness. He was one of the valued citizens of Kendall County, having spent practically all his life here. He was one of the best known men in this Yorkville community; a sturdy, reliable man in any position in which he was placed. Left an orphan at an early age he was the architect of his own fortune and he built well. He began as a lad on the farm attending the country school; then a teacher, a soldier in the Civil War, a student at college, a lawyer, husband, and father. Through it all he maintained his character as a man of strictest morality, integrity and usefulness.
It is a personal loss to this writer. In 1870, as County Superintendent, I gave John Fitzgerald a certificate to teach school in Kendall County. From that time we have been friends and for years associates.
"Fritz" had many phases in his character. He was counted a stubborn and obstinate man. So he was, in a measure, an outspoken man as the mood moved him and he felt correctness of his position. But he was loyal to his friends and his friends to him. It was not always music and flowers between us, but our contention was never serious. At one time he was urged to begin a libel suit against the Record when things were hot in this community during the forming of a union school district and deciding where to locate a schoolhouse. I wrote and published some stricture, the force of which was not apparent to me, but John did not sue. "No Sir"' he said, "I do not have to go into court to settle so trivial a matter." And he did not. But he came back later. One evening, when I was postmaster, he came into the office much vexed by something that had been done and expressed himself. After telling of his grievance he broke out with "Your administration as postmaster is the worst Yorkville has ever had!" I said I was sorry; we went out, I locked the office door, and we walked to the corner talking of anything. At the corner he went to his home and I to mine. I was never hurt by this opinion of "Fitz" and he probably never recalled it. It was just his temperament to say such things but he carried no rancor after he had expressed himself. In our nearly fifty years' intercourse we were always friends and for a number of years he has been my legal adviser, what little I needed in that line. He was a safe adviser and made many settlements for his clients when he might, had he been less considerate, have had a paying lawsuit to contest.
Fitzgerald was useful to this community in many social and fraternity gatherings. He was a ready speaker and could fill any place from a presiding officer, a toastmaster or after dinner speaker, and he was always interesting and amusing. In church and school affairs he was a master hand. In the Grand Army Post, Masonic lodge, Odd Fellows gatherings he was an able assistant whenever needed, which was often. His was a familiar form on our streets and many will miss the greetings of Fitzgerald as they pass along.
John Fitzgerald was born in Malone, Franklin County, New York, June 5, 1849. He came to Will County, Illinois with his parents in 1853. Both parents died when he was a lad. He came to Kendall County and, for a time, made his home with the Philo Beecher family on a farm in Kendall Township. In the summer of 1864, when just past his fifteenth year, he enlisted in the Fifty-third Illinois Infantry in Chicago, and served until July 22, 1865 when his regiment was mustered out at the close of the war. He came back to Kendall County and resumed his duties as a farm boy. Later he went to Fowler Institute at Newark and from there attended law school at Ann Arbor, Michigan. He continued his study of the law with the late Captain Little of Aurora, and was admitted to the bar in the winter of 1882. He located in Yorkville and was a leading attorney of Kendall County until the time of his death. In 1883 he was married to Miss Nora Shaver at Oswego. They were happily mated residents of Yorkville until 1903 when the good wife died and John went it alone with her memory dear to him. One son is left, an only child, Herbert S. Fitzgerald, who has for a number of years been connected with the U. S. Marine Corps. He is a valued officer in that service and currently engaged in enlisting recruits.
In 1894, Mr. Fitzgerald was elected State's Attorney for Kendall County on an independent Democratic ticket. His election was a surprise to the sturdy Republicans of the county where Democrats were never elected to office at that time, nor very often since. He served four years, but was not a candidate for reelection. The office of prosecutor was distasteful to him. As he said many times, "I do not like to prosecute people; I would rather defend them." And that was a fact. He has been a leader on the official board of the Yorkville Methodist Church for many years. He served as Commander of Yorkville post, G. A. R.; Master of the Masonic lodge; Nobel Grand and representative of the Odd Fellows lodge; and a leader in every effort to build up the community in sobriety, education and Christian fellowship.
Someone may think a blue pencil might be drawn through some of the statements made. Possibly some might think a blue pencil might be used in the final statement concerning you. Nothing has been exaggerated about John Fitzgerald. Did he have no faults? Yes, possibly some; but minor faults are obliterated in death and major virtues are enlarged. Fitzgerald stood for everything that was good for humanity and this community. Signed John R. Marshall.
The Docket Closed
It was a notable gathering in the Yorkville Methodist Church on Saturday forenoon. The occasion was the final tribute to John Fitzgerald. Friends from different parts of the county were in attendance. A large body of the Masonic fraternity filled the south side of the church, and a small number of Grand Army comrades had a niche in the northwest corner. There were only a few of them but they honored their departed comrade. Attorneys Charles A. Darnell, and John S. Sears of Aurora paid tribute to the departed brother.
Services began with the reading of the Methodist burial ritual by the pastor, Rev. B. M. Will, followed by the "The Beautiful Isle of Somewhere," by a quartet choir. The Rev. Frank Sheets, district superintendent, unexpectedly came down from Aurora to say good-bye to a worthy officer of the church. He made a strong prayer, and if the prayer would be answered we would all be in better trim to face the rider of the pale horse. "Abide with Me." that favorite with so many, was sung by the choir. Pastor Will read a sketch of the life of John Fitzgerald and paid honest testimony to his worth as a member and advisor in official matters. Dr. Sheets added some happy words along the line of Christian and patriotic duty, cheering the old boys in blue. He cautioned the brethren of the blue lodge that they remember what they promised at the Masonic altar. He exhorted others to lead useful lives as had the brother lying before them. He gave the only son, Herbert, the pleasing word that if he followed in the footsteps of his father all would be well with him.
Following came the Grand Army ritual in charge of Post Commander Comrade Barney Phillips, assisted by comrades of the post. Then the service was closed and pall bearers took charge of the casket, and went to the Cowdrey Cemetery with the hearse where Comrade John was place beside the remains of his wife, who passed over so many years ago. Kendall lodge of the Masons went to the burial ground in a special car on the electric railway where the ritual of the order was read and the last rites observed.
There was a lavish offering of flowers, set pieces and bouquets from the fraternal orders, the church, and friends on and about the casket. They were beautiful and gave us hope that when we joined our brother the new home might be just as delightful with the joys that never fade.
Among the many from away were the Hon. Charles C. Hoge and Samuel Naden from Big Grove; the Hon. William M. Hanna of Aurora, formerly a Lisbon physician and member of the legislature from this county; George Ackerman of Kaneville, a former sheriff of Kendall County; and many old friends.
The pall bearers were members of the Masonic lodge and past masters of the Kendall lodge; R. A. McClellan, F. R. Frazier, W. T. Boston, F. G. Hill, A. P. Hill, and R. K. Leitch.
The singers were Misses Josephine Frazier and Frieda Nading; Messrs. Claude Belden and Leon Gilpatrick, accompanied by Miss Julia Knudson.