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RIP Daniel John Fitzgerald -- Oh, Danny Boy !

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  • RIP Daniel John Fitzgerald -- Oh, Danny Boy !

    It was a proper send up, indeed, for the Irishman, Daniel John Fitzgerald this fine day !

    From daughter Kelly, on through to brother, Jim, the lovefest never ended and the appreciation of a loyal, loving, charitable and one-of-a-kind character, swept through the crowd of mourners over and over.

    And to a person, the emphasis was on the friendships and caring this man brought to all who ever met him, at Gonzaga, in Spokane and throughout his life. He was celebrated as much more than a coach and as bigger than the program, its successes and even the young men he recruited that now coach the Zags, or at San Diego and Long Beach. All these things, it was agreed, not just one in particular, remain his legacy forever. He planted the seeds.

    One Northern Quest Casino employee I asked placed the number participating in the celebration of Fitz' life at 1,200. I can only add this: the place was full and there were people standing along the walls on all sides.

    I apologize in advance at this point because I did not bring a pen and paper to write down salient quotes. There were many. I thought this was being streamed so figured you all would be served that way.

    What I can say is it was a love fest and it went on from start to finish and carried on for at least two hours beyond the scheduled times.

    Among the speakers after daughter Kelly and finisher, broJim Fitzgerald, were nephews Jim & Ryan, former Zag players Jeff Brown & Geoff Goss, former Asst. coach Dan Monson, Jr., Phil Haugen, Northen Quest Asst. General Manager & Peter Riverso, General Manager of Northern quest.

    Absent notes, I will tell you I have been to many, many, tributes and heard dozens of eulogies. These were among the best, mainly because of the subject, his incredible personality, love of stories & gift of gab, that I have ever heard. The subject, if you will, was rich, and therefore, in retrospect, so were the stories. As a result, there were many funny lines and good stories told and warm remembrances shared beginning to end.

    Before the finish, there was a touching 10-15 minute video presentation of Fitz from childhood through his entire life, accompanied by beautiful, emotional, Irish songs everyone has heard.

    Several things were conspicuously absent from the celebration: all of them centered around Gonzaga University. There was no mention of Gonzaga University by name. No cataloguing of Fitz's victories and challenges there and very little chat about all those decades he devoted to the school he loved. No semblance of thanks or any devotion being returned to him by anyone from Gonzaga, either. Several speakers alluded to the good old days and past teams and experiences, but only rarely was the school, rather than Fitz, the center of the conversation.

    Clearly, the divide between this most-famous coach and it's now international program, remained, even in his passing. Sadly.

    What his family, friends, former coaches and former players did emphasize was the impact he had on them personally, the program, in general, and their lives after college. In that sense it was surreal. As surreal as coming to grips with the fact that he was actually gone. Forever.

    The only Jesuit I saw there was former GU president Bernie Coughlin. He was dressed in a sports jacket and slacks.

    Otherwise, Gonzaga was barely mentioned in the two to 2.5 hour tribute to the man who not only launched the most successful program in the history of Gonzaga University, but represented just about everything that GU now claims as its legacy of commitment, hard work and success.

    Fitz' remains were brought into and out of the large auditorium by pall bearers Dick Davey, John Stockton, Ryan Fitzgerald and Jim Fitzgerald, to the sounds of Amazing Graze, as played by bagpipes and Indian drums.

    During his video presentation, moving renditions of Irish songs, including "Danny Boy," were played as giant screens took us all the way through pictures of an incredibly handsome, young, vibrant Fitz, right up to a still-handsome but clearly lived-in semblance of the same man we all grew to know and love.

    Among just a few of the attendees besides those mentioned, were Mark & Marcie Few, John Rillie (all the way from Australia); Jud Heathcoate, Bobo Brayton, Dan Monson, sr., Jack Stockton, members of the first high school team Fitz coached back in the '60's, and members of all the teams he coached at Gonzaga, and friends from all over the world.

    All in all it was a wonderful sendup. Hopefully, Section 116 & Hondo, JHoops & El Voce can add to this inadequate attempt to cover the event, for I saw them there.

    Suffice it to say from this perspective, we would all be very lucky, indeed to have as many friends as Fitz had, on hand to mourn his loss, and thank him for his life on this 27th day in Januray, 2010.

    Thanks Fitz. God Bless you. God bless your family. May you one day get the proper recognition you richly deserve from Gonzaga and if that doesn't happen, please rest in peace and rest assured that many, many Gonzaga fans know what all you did and will never, ever forget.


    Go TEAM Zags !
    Last edited by gamagin; 01-28-2010, 03:23 AM.
    Go TEAM Zags !

    "John Stockton is one of the true marvels, not just of basketball, or in America, but in the history of Western Civilization!”
    Tom Hammond: “Wow, that’s a pretty strong statement. I guess I don’t have a good handle on world history.”
    Bill: “Well Tom, that’s because you didn’t go to UCLA." - Bill Walton

  • #2
    There are many, many folks on this board who have a much closer and much longer association with Fitz and Gonzaga than I. I met Fitz once and spoke to him for probably two minutes. When I related this to a long time poster on this board he told me that was OK if you knew Fitz for two minutes you knew him. I would expect others to share some thoughts on the service but I'll share a few things with those of you who did not attend or had no access to the live streaming. A couple things are fresh in my mind and I'm going to get them down now so I don't forget. One of the more poignant stories was related by Fitz's brother Jim who told the attendees when Fitz's wife and daughter arrived at the hospital on the fateful day they were stopped by a security guard, a retired Spokane Police Officer. Wife and daughter of course told him who they were and why they were there. The officer told them another Fitz, story, one no one had ever heard before. Apparently some years back a distraught female was perched upon the Monroe St. Bridge prepared to jump. Fitz was on a jog and headed across the bridge when he happened upon the scene. He asked the officer what was going on and if he could help. The officer said the female was not responding to those in uniform and if he thought he could help, go ahead. Fitz did and saved her life. According to Fit'z brother John no one, not daughter, not wife, no one had ever heard this story before. That is just unbelievable to me a guy could do that and then go about his day, let alone his life and not tell anyone. Don Monson was a superb speaker and one of the things I held onto was Monson comparing the beginnings of GU's rise during the Fitz era to the construction of a home. Monson said the concrete on a home goes down and no one thinks much about the concrete guys or the work they did. Then the home goes up, windows, door all the nice stuff that everyone looks at and they all admire the finished product. Monson said that is what Fitz did, he laid the concrete. And yes Few and Grier were there along with Monson. I'm assuming others will share with you but I wanted to get this down.


    • #3
      Outstanding post! Thanks for painting the picture for those us unable to attend.

      Just a thought, but it would great if someone with influence on this board would please start a Fitz Memorial Sticky to start a grass roots effort to get something bearing his name on campus. Thanks.

      Thanks Gam and all Zags who have fond memories of Fitz.
      Gonzaga Basketball
      Exhibiting Character Since 1907


      • #4
        Like Gamagin, I've been to too many funerals over the years, and today's remembrance was easily the best I've ever attended. From his daughter Kelli's opening welcome, to brother Jim's closing remarks, all the speakers were spot on capturing this larger than life person the whole room knew simply as Fitz.

        All the speakers shared humorous stories - I'll tell you, Monson has a career in standup comedy just waiting for him. Yet, they also captured the humanity and the loyalty that drew everyone in that room to Fitz.

        A particularly poignant moment for me: Monson produced a towel (Dan's trademark as a coach) that he stole from GU's practice yesterday, and draped it over the urn. Maybe you had to be there, but it brought tears to my eyes.

        Gamagin captured things pretty well in his report, so I don't really have much to add. Props to Northern Quest Casino, who donated the room and provided a very fine lunch to all the attendees. It is obvious that Fitz was well loved in his new job.

        RIP Fitz!


        • #5
          A terrific tribute...

          to a wonderful man. I've never attended a better one. GA and others in this thread have captured the essence well. There was one part that has stuck with me. As previously mentioned Peter Riverso was the last speaker, before brother Jim, and he talked about how he and Fitz had become good friends over the last three years. At the end of his talk he paused a moment and looked out over the huge crowd. Then when this tough guy, who grew up in Philadelphia’s Little Italy, spoke again his voice was cracking. He said “I’m really jealous of all of you out there. You’ve known Fitz for all of these years and I’ve only known him for three.” I’ve thought about that all day. We have been so fortunate to have known this truly bigger-than-life individual. He’ll be dearly missed.
          Last edited by jhoop; 01-28-2010, 04:36 AM.


          • #6
            Thanks for sharing your observations.
            The GUB Resource Library: Links to: Stats, Blogs, Brackets, & More. . .

            “They go to school. They do their homework. They shake hands. They say please and thank you. But once you throw that ball up, they will rip your heart out and watch you bleed.” -- Jay Bilas


            • #7
              Why can't we "retire" Fitz up in the rafters with Stockton and Burgess? It's where he belongs.


              • #8
                "He said “I’m really jealous of all of you out there. You’ve known Fitz for all of these years and I’ve only known him for three.” I’ve thought about that all day. We have been so fortunate to have known this truly bigger-than-life individual."
                How lucky we were to have this wonderful guy in our lives even if the time was not as long as we would have liked.


                • #9
                  Recording of the service?

                  Is there a recording of the stream available? Do you know of plans to make the service available?


                  • #10
                    Nice big article in the Spokesman-Review today. The photo is impressive, but really only shows about one third of the crowd (view it "full size").

                    Even before the first words were spoken, the huge crowd at a memorial service for Daniel John Fitzgerald on Wednesday quietly defined the legacy of the beloved former Gonzaga University basketball coach. There was the woman who, as a 10-year-old girl, kept score for him when he coached at a Catholic high school; the former GU standout who spent 32 hours traveling from Australia for the service; and the law student who was one of Fitzgerald’s first statistics keepers.


                    • #11
                      It was really nice of John Rillie to come all the way from Australia. I'd love to be able to look at the guest register.
                      Gonzaga - The Greatest Student Section in the Nation!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ikancagin View Post
                        Why can't we "retire" Fitz up in the rafters with Stockton and Burgess? It's where he belongs.

                        Wonderful idea!
                        Gonzaga Basketball
                        Exhibiting Character Since 1907