Monday, December 22, 2014

Remembering My Cousin Jack Fitzpatrick, Murdered 43 Years Ago at Higbee's Department Store, Waiting in Line with His Children to See Santa

Tommy Fitzpatrick, left, in Vietnam
Mary Finnegan Fitzpatrick
Jack Fitzpatrick

Forty-three years ago yesterday, December 21, 1971, my cousin Jack Fitzpatrick was brutally murdered while waiting in line to see Santa Claus with three of his four children. His wife, Mary Finnegan Fitzpatrick, was shopping nearby with their oldest daughter. Mary was near full-term pregnant, and their fifth child, Tommy, was born after his father's murder. Tommy was named after his uncle Tom Fitzpatrick, my cousin, who was killed in Vietnam two years earlier. The tragedy for my Uncle Al and Aunt Catherine Fitzpatrick was beyond comprehension--two of their children violently killed within two years. The ripples of this killing have not ended. Our family is still terribly bruised by this tragedy.

The murderer of my cousin was Tyrone Howard. In an amazing twist of fate, Tyrone's son is one of America's most famous actors, Terrence Howard. Terrence was two years old, and was there at Higbee's, when his father murdered my cousin.

Jack Fitzpatrick was about 12 years older than me, so my memories of him are somewhat skewed by that age difference. He was a kind of hero in the family. He was the oldest Fitzpatrick grandson of my grandparents, Jack and Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick. He had been a seminarian, studying for the priesthood for a time at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio. He was the first relative to ever graduate from college--from John Carroll University. He had been an ROTC officer, if I remember correctly.

I heard the news listening to a scratchy TV news program in Cincinnati, in my Over-the-Rhine apartment. I came back to Euclid, to St. William's, for the funeral, which was held on Christmas Eve. I can't forget Mary's inconsolable keening, and the family and community's deep deep sorrow.

Mary recovered from this tragedy and lived a good life, with many friends. She did a fine job raising her children. Her children have led good lives. My Dad helped Mary and her children a lot through all of this.

The Light shines in the darkness, And the darkness has not overcome it.

Wikipedia article on Jack Fitzpatrick's murder.

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