In her nearly ninety-six years, Grandma (Maw to some of us) never wasted a minute, but she was never in a rush, either. She always had time to hold a crying grandchild, listen to a lengthy story, and fix dinner. Her generosity of time, love, and energy was always present with family first and then with her community. Marge lived her faith everyday. She believed in family, the Holy Family, and the power of prayer.
Marjorie Pauline (Butz) Fitzgerald was born and grew up in a house on Echo Street in Lafayette, the second daughter of Leo and Louise (Ketterer) Butz. She had time to play with her extended family who lived close by while earning top grades at St. Boniface School, where she was second in her class. She liked to help her mother bake in a time, she would often say, before mixers. Later in life she would patiently walk her children and grandchildren through the process of baking their favorite treats, teaching them fractions and also to scrape down the sides of the bowl before turning on the mixer. She trusted her big brother and begged to play with her older sister. They liked to ice skate and enjoyed family trips to the Soldier’s Home to savor the view and eat ice cream. A friend of Marge’s was a friend for life - her correspondence was extensive and she kept in touch with childhood friends through letters and phone calls for decades. Like her aunt before her, Margie believed every home should have a candy drawer.
Marge took business classes at St. Francis High School and was an excellent typist, a skill she would use throughout her life on typewriters or, later, computers when she worked for over ten years as a secretary in the Agricultural Department at Purdue. She loved her job and the people with whom she worked. She was a lifelong learner who loved to read and believed it was important to remain informed about current events. After working in the billing department at ALCOA during World War II, she attended St. Francis College in Fort Wayne to become a teacher and taught in Chicago Heights for two years. She left teaching to marry a handsome mailman named Lawrence (Larry) Fitzgerald of Stockwell. He shared her strong faith and they raised five children in Lafayette on Creasy Lane. Both believed in volunteering their time and talents to benefit those in need. Her commitment to service led her to run and (to the surprise of only herself) win an election in her eighties to serve as an elected trustee in her hometown.
Affectionately known as the “sports nut of Hoosier Village”, Marge could often be found watching the latest Purdue, Notre Dame, or Colts game. She believed that Peyton Manning would always be a Colt and she always rooted for the Boilermakers, unless, of course, they were playing Notre Dame. Passionate about sports, she cheered proudly and chatted during commercials about how well the team was doing.
She was a devout, lifelong Catholic who believed it was never too cold outside to attend Mass. Active in her parish of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lafayette, she participated in Christ Renews His Parish program and was a dedicated volunteer at Lafayette Urban Ministries. After retiring, she and Larry enjoyed playing golf, traveling to visit their extended family, and taking a memorable trip to visit Rome and Lourdes. Family Christmases were epic affairs where the living room was an ocean of wrapping paper with multiple tins of cookies. She loved seeing someone’s face when they opened a gift.
Marge believed most baked goods could benefit from extra chocolate chips, that a slice of apple pie was only improved by a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and that card games were best played with a cold Sprite in hand. She loved to bake cookies with her grandkids while pointing out the value of fractions in baking and playing number games. Grandma was always willing to try new recipes and taught us not to worry too much if it didn’t work out. We learned from her to make the best of things as we enjoyed pieces of cake that stuck to the pan or slightly burnt cookies. Her patience as she decorated elaborate cakes and colorful cookies taught us to keep going, even when things were hard.
After meals she would take her time washing dishes as she chatted with the grandkid assigned to help her clean up. She told us to savor our food and shared her own stories of giggling in class with childhood friends as she sipped her tea. When she played cards, which was often, she took her time to settle on the best play. Quiet in her victory, she never gloated when she beat each of us multiple times in marathon family sessions of Phase 10, Scrabble, Bridge and the card game Golf.
She taught us to pray unceasingly, share poetry, appreciate philosophy, and that kindness was contagious. Marge never had to raise her voice to command the attention of everyone in the room. She was unfailingly positive and believed in making the best of things. She made friends wherever she went because she was, in the words of one friend “an easy person to be friends with.”
Marge taught us to appreciate the time we have with those we love. She remembered the lives of her parents, her older brother Leo Robert, older sister Marilyn (Irv) Claseman, and younger brother Herbert, her oldest son Philip, and her husband who preceded her in death. Her children, Jeanne Mason (Doug), Susan Bott (Chris), Dennis Fitzgerald, and Nancy Fitzgerald (Dan) survive her.
Later in her life Marge mastered texting and FaceTiming so she could see her seventeen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She never failed to remember and ask about the little details of our lives. She started a Scrabble club at Hoosier Village, her final residence, where everyone seemed to know her. She loved showing off her family when they came to visit, commenting often that “it is a joy to see your children’s children” (Psalm 128:6).
Marge’s greatest gift was to take time to listen. Her patience and kind ear were the reason she was a good friend and beloved by so many. Neither time nor distance hampered her capacity for listening. When talking to Grandma/Maw, a person enjoyed her full attention and never had the sense that she was busy or needed to be elsewhere. In a day and age when it feels like many of us are so busy, she taught us to take our time with those we love. We are so grateful for the time we had with her. We are glad she is at rest now and we believe we will see her again in time.
Visitation for friends will take place from 10:00 A.M. on Wednesday, July 22 with a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Mary’s Cathedral to follow at 11:00 A.M. Due to the corona virus-19, face masks and social distancing are requested. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Lafayette Urban Ministries or St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Memories and condolences may be left at www.hahngroeberfuneralhome.com. Hahn-Groeber Funeral Home of Lafayette is honored to serve the Fitzgerald family.