The Reverend Doctor Frank Owen Fitzgerald, Jr. was born in Kinston, North Carolina on December 11, 1928 to Frank Owen Fitzgerald, Sr. and Ada Glenn Tunstall. He passed away peacefully on February 10, 2015 at Sunrise Senior Living in Raleigh, NC at the age of 86 after a difficult struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Early influences came from Queen Street Methodist Church and Louisburg Youth Assemblies which led him to a lifetime of service within the Methodist Church. His education in the Kinston Public School System began at Harvey School with graduation from Grainger High School in 1947. From there he attended High Point College and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1951, graduating cum laude with a triple major in English, Religious Education, and Social Science. In recognition of his scholarship, leadership, and character, he was inducted into the Order of the Lighted Lamp, awarded the C. L. Amos Medallion for “Outstanding Male Student” by the faculty, and named “most intellectual” by his classmates. His senior year, he served as President of the North Carolina Methodist Student Movement and participated in the first Methodist Caravan to Freudenstat, Germany to help rebuild a church destroyed during the war. In 1981, High Point College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
While continuing his education at Duke University Divinity School, he was ordained Elder in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1953, and served a student appointment at Walstonburg-Tabernacle in Greene County. After graduation in 1954, subsequent appointments held were Hay Street (Associate), Fayetteville; Murfreesboro; Calvary Memorial, Snow Hill; St. Luke, Goldsboro; Centenary, Smithfield; Hayes Barton, Raleigh; District Superintendent of the Burlington District; and Assistant to the Dean, Duke Divinity School.
Professionally, he served the Conference well as a member of numerous boards and agencies: Pensions, Education, Missions (secretary and vice-president), Council on Ministries; Board of Ordained Ministry, Council on Finance and Administration (chairman), United Methodist Foundation, Trustee of the Annual Conference, Trustee of the Methodist Home for Children, Trustee of Methodist College and Trustee of High Point University. Civic activities included 15 years as a Rotarian (serving as President and Vice-President) Mental Health Association (President Wayne County, President, Johnston County; NC Mental Health Association (finance chairman). While in Smithfield, he organized the
CONTACT Telephone Ministry, a 24/7 help line for Johnston County, NC.
As a faithful Duke alumnus he served as President, Duke Divinity National Alumni Council, Vice-President of Duke University Alumni Association Council, Duke Divinity School Dean’s Advisory Council and Duke Divinity School Board of Visitors. He was awarded the Charles A. Dukes Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service to Duke University in 1985.
A man of deep and abiding faith, Owen poured his energy and enthusiasm into the churches he served, working diligently to meet the needs of the members of his congregations. After retirement, he continued to serve within his local church, Hayes Barton United Methodist in Raleigh, chairing the Columbarium Committee, serving as a Stephen Minister, and participating in a mission trip to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. In 1995, Hayes Barton conferred upon him the designation ‘Minister Emeritus’.
Spending time with family and close friends brought him joy as he relaxed and shared his dry and subtle sense of humor. On March 30, 1957 he married Mary-Owens Bell Fitzgerald of Fayetteville, NC. He took great pride in their two children, Frank and Anne, and their many accomplishments. He also found time to relax on the tennis court, competing with members of the ‘Hog Island Racquet Club’, and on fishing trips on the Neuse with life-long friends and members of the ‘Neuse River Cabinet’. After retirement there was great pleasure in travel with children and grandchildren, summers spent at Lake Junaluska and involvement with community arts and educational groups.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mary-Owens Bell Fitzgerald, his son, Frank Owen Fitzgerald III and wife, Kersten Chapman Marchese, two grandchildren, Owen Patrick Fitzgerald and Chapman Thomas Fitzgerald, all of Chatham County; daughter Anne Tunstall Fitzgerald and husband, Ian Tuck, of Toronto, Canada; sister Nancy Fitzgerald West Norton of Kinston, NC; brother Kenneth Robert Fitzgerald and wife, Jan Ogletree, of Ocala, Florida; brother-in-law, Graham Alonzo Bell and wife Mary Rose Cooper, of Fayetteville, NC and numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.
It is with heartfelt gratitude, the family would like to thank Dr. Michael Rees, Dr. David Fisher and the staff on the Terrace at Sunrise Senior Living of Raleigh, Transitions Life Care, Oscar Muga and Retha Neal for the tender loving care shared with Owen during the years of his illness.
A service of Death and Resurrection will be celebrated on Thursday, February 19 at 2:00 p.m. at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church. The family will greet friends and family in the Fellowship Hall immediately following the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Owen Fitzgerald may be made to Hayes Barton United Methodist Church Endowment Fund, Box 6088, Raleigh, NC 27628-6088; or the The Fitzgerald Family Endowment Fund (6112607), The Divinity School, P. O. Box 90966, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0966 or to the charity of one’s choice.
Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, Saint Mary's St., Raleigh.