Richard  Fitzmaurice ’52 passed away in Santa Cruz, Cali., on Tuesday, June 30, 2009, of pancreatic cancer. He was surrounded in his last days by his family, his friends from Garfield Senior Residence, and the wonderful staff at Sunshine Villa. He was 86 years old. Richard was born on Feb. 15, 1923, in Lincoln, Neb., and raised in Missouri by his adoring parents, Margaret and Will. His father was a sharecropper and the best pig farmer in Holt county Missouri, near St. Joe, until the Depression ended the family’s farming opportunities. Like his brother Don, Richard joined the Army Air Corps before the Second World War, to send money home to his family. Don, who dreamed of being a farmer, was killed in the Doolittle Tokyo Raid in 1942, a mission made famous in the film "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo." This was a crushing loss for Richard and his family. Richard found out about Don’s death while he was in a Nazi prison in Germany in 1944-45, a prison made famous in the film "The Great Escape." Richard had been shot down over Germany. During Richard’s capture he was interrogated by the Gestapo and was about to be shot when a farmwoman stepped in front of the rifle to shield him. He was beaten instead. He spent many weeks in solitary confinement, the ‘cooler,’ for standing in for escaping prisoners. He hated war and was struck by the 18-year-olds on both sides, who seemed to be farm boys like him, fighting for things they did not understand. He was saved by the caring of a German guard who had lost his own family to Allied air raids and by his fellow prisoners who brought him back from dysentery and other maladies while on a forced march across Germany in the winter at the end of the war. He always revered them. He scoffed at the term ‘hero’ regarding his own accomplishments. In his adulthood he was quiet about his war experiences, but as he grew older he constantly asked, ‘Why can’t we stop killing each other?’ With his beloved wife, Betty Jean, he raised his six children to hate war and to work for social justice, beginning with his work with the United Farm Workers in the early 1960s. He joined Cesar Chavez on the Delano March to Sacramento in 1966. He brought his children to hear and support Martin Luther King in 1963, and encouraged them all to fight for economic and social justice. Richard worked as an engineer for FMC for 30 years making farm machinery. He invented many exceptional irrigation and harvesting innovations. That work him even more aware of the farmworkers, their struggle, and the dignity of their work. But he spent the last few years at FMC with no tasks, because he refused to design weapons. Ultimately, he retired as a form of protest to their increased focus on military projects. As an elder, he was eventually jailed–with Marge Frantz and others–for demonstrating at the weapons lab. He found capitalism predatory and looked for better ways to live in this world, visiting Cuba twice, as well as many Latin American countries. His views led him to the Green Party and to socialism. He often traveled to Europe, mostly Andalusia and Westport, Ireland, where he was a citizen. He leaves behind many wonderful friends in Westport, Castlebar, and Killawalla, Mayo, Ireland. He visited these places every year for over 20 years, staying at youth hostels and traveling on the cheap. He walked the Ronda Valley in Spain, enjoyed speaking bad Spanish, and loved the music in the pubs in Ireland. He loved Hawaii for more than 50 years, and even traveled there six weeks ago. He was struck by the words of a Hawaiian guide many years ago, who threw him a stone and said, ‘There ‘ª; that’s your grandfather!’ He believed that we needed to understand our natural selves and to care for each other and the world. Growing up on a farm, in the middle of a great depression, and his focus on creating machinery that made it easier for people to work the land, it was clear that nature played a huge part in his spiritual connection to the world. He loved all music, believing that the arts were among the ‘best things we do’. He especially loved country music: Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar songs serenaded him in his final hours. You couldn’t miss him on the street, wearing his trademark blue Dickie coveralls every day, just as his father had virtually never worn anything but overalls. He played golf for Santa Clara University–where he graduated with an engineering degree in 1952–and once played Ken Venturi at Pasatiempo in the 1950s. He never told us whether or not he won. He enjoyed interacting with strangers and friends in his favorite haunts in Santa Cruz, like The Cookhouse, Beckmann’s, Duarte’s in Pescadero, or Gilda’s on the wharf, where they treated him with special care and kindness. He rode his bike all over town until last year. He was well-known on the buses and in the local stores–and not just for stealing batteries or the occasional block of cheese. He loved to write his stories, he held Louden Nelson Center as a sacred place, and he appreciated his teachers very much. He sent the same letter to the editor every six months or so–to stop war, to quit fighting, and to love each other.He was one of six children who survived infancy. His wife of many years, Betty, died in 1996. He is survived by his sister, Annette, his six children and their partners Pat, Tom, Tim, Ginny, Michael, Julie, Terri, Betsy, Bob, and Lori, his three grandchildren and their partners Jason and Erika, Marcel and Juliet, and Caitlin Rose, and two great-grandchildren Briton and Oona. He also leaves behind many wonderful members of the Fitzmaurice family, the family of his deceased sister Mary Foster, and those in and around St. Joe’s, Missouri. Richard will be buried with his brother Don at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno.

08 Nov 2018