2005-02-11 / Obituaries

Frank Fitzgerald

Frank FitzgeraldFrank Fitzgerald Frank M. Fitzgerald, a former Michigan legislator and state insurance commissioner who was known for his high ethical standards and dedication to public service, died suddenly Thursday, December 9, 2004, at LaGuardia Airport while returning from a business trip in New York City. He was 49 and a resident of Grand Ledge.

His parents, John and Lorabeth Fitzgerald, own a summer cottage on the East Bluff of Mackinac Island, where Mr. Fitzgerald spent his childhood summers. He also worked as an interpretive guide at Fort Mackinac while on summer break from his studies at The College of William and Mary in Virginia.

“During his college summers, Frank honed his communication skills as an outstanding guide at Fort Mackinac,” said Dr. David Armour, former Mackinac Island State Park deputy director. “Every Tuesday, the staff came to play games and socialize in our home next to the fort. There he also fell in love with his future wife, Ruth. Through the years, their desire to serve the public never wavered, nor did his love of Mackinac. Several times each summer, they returned to the Fitzgerald cottage on the East Bluff, where they kept a watchful eye on the State Park.

“Frank’s sudden death leaves a great void, not only in Michigan but on Mackinac, as well,” Dr. Armour continued. “Yet, the legacy of the Fitzgeralds lives on: a tribute to Frank’s dedication to follow in the illustrious footsteps of his father and grandfather.”

Mr. Fitzgerald’s father, John, is a retired Supreme Court Justice (1974-1983) who also served in the Michigan Senate and on the Michigan Court of Appeals. His grandfather, Frank D. Fitzgerald, was a governor of Michigan who died in office during a second term in 1939. He also served two terms as secretary of state. His great-grandfather, John Wesley Fitzgerald, served in the Michigan House from 1895 to 1896.

He was born November 11, 1955 in Grand Ledge and was graduated from Grand Ledge High School. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary and earned a juris doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing.

Mr. Fitzgerald began his career in 1984 as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Eaton County before being elected in 1986 to the Michigan House of Representatives, where he represented Eaton County for 12 years, ultimately serving as Speaker Pro Tem and in other leadership positions. He chaired the House Oversight and Ethics Committee, of which he was most proud, and the Insurance, Judiciary, Legislative Council, and Public Retirement committees in his last years in the legislature. Governor John Engler appointed him the state insurance commissioner in 1999, and he became the commissioner of the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services when Mr. Engler reorganized state departments in 2000.

For the last two years, Mr. Fitzgerald has been a member of the Clark Hill Law firm, where he was managing attorney for the Lansing office.

“Frank Fitzgerald was an honorable human being who upheld a long-standing family tradition of public service with honor and distinction,” said Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. “In an era when politics and government are too often rife with partisanship, he stood out as a true model of civility. We mourn his loss and extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”

Governor Granholm ordered flags lowered to half-staff within the State Capitol Complex to honor Mr. Fitzgerald until the day of his interment. Flags were also lowered on Mackinac Island.

Dennis Cawthorne, chairman of Mackinac Island State Park Commission and a lobbyist for the state Legislature, remembers Mr. Fitzgerald.

“I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Frank Fitzgerald on many matters over the years,” said Mr. Cawthorne. “He was a public servant of the greatest integrity. He was scrupulously honest, always a gentleman, and a moderate who gained the respect of everyone he met. He will be missed by many, many people.”

“Frank Fitzgerald was a dedicated public servant and this is truly a tragedy,” said state Office of Financial and Insurance Services Commissioner Linda Watters. “He served with distinction for many years in the Legislature and was an energetic and capable leader as the first commissioner of the Office of Financial and Insurance Services. He will truly be missed by all who knew him, and the State of Michigan has lost a great man.”

Mr. Fitzgerald was a member of the First Congregational, United Church of Christ, in Grand Ledge, where he was an active leader. He coached many of his children’s sports teams and enjoyed golf, and he read extensively in history and politics, said his family.

Mr. Fitzgerald is survived by his wife, Ruth, whom he married in 1981; a son, John Wesley, 14, and a daughter, Ellen Lora, 17; His parents, John and Lorabeth Fitzgerald of Grand Ledge; two brothers and their families, Eric Fitzgerald and Adam Fitzgerald and Lisa Sell, of Denver, and a close cousin and her family, Emily and Paul Fullerton of St. Ignace.

He is also survived by members of his wife’s brothers and their families, Jim and Charlene Davey of Jacksonville, Florida, and Mark and Mary Beth Davey of Grosse Pointe Farms.

A memorial service was held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, December 15, at First Congregational, United Church of Christ in Grand Ledge. The family held a private interment.

Holihan Atkin Funeral Home of Grand Ledge served the family.

Memorial contributions to the church can be made in lieu of flowers.

Return to top