William Thomas Fitzgerald, 77, Carroll juvenile justice officer

November 28, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

William Thomas Fitzgerald, a former master for what is now Juvenile Court in Carroll County and a craftsman who carved an exquisite and detailed collection of birds, died Saturday of heart failure at his Westminster home.

Mr. Fitzgerald, 77, was the juvenile master in the Carroll County courts from 1981 to 1989, a position he used to help and work with county youths. After he retired, he worked part time in the juvenile system.

"He was just everything you could want in a judge," said Peter M. Tabatsko, who succeeded Mr. Fitzgerald in the position, which was then called master of juvenile causes.

"He was always fair and even in dealing with everybody," Mr. Tabatsko said.

Colleagues and relatives said Mr. Fitzgerald had an easy demeanor and used a "common-sense" approach when dealing with youths. His wife, the former Nita Lussier, whom he married in 1947, said he excelled as a master because he had a troubled upbringing.

"He liked getting them [troubled youths] headed in the right direction," said his wife. "He wanted to make sure they got their lives straight."

A native of Troy, N.Y., Mr. Fitzgerald served in the Army from 1941 to 1945 during World War II, stationed in Europe as a first lieutenant in the Office of Strategic Services.

Soon after his discharge, he moved to Baltimore and worked for Baltimore Transfer Co. He moved to Westminster in the early 1970s.

Mr. Fitzgerald graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore in 1975 with a degree in political science. He graduated from the Antioch School of Law in Washington in 1978 and opened a practice in Westminster, working with juveniles through the Juvenile Services Administration.

"He was very concerned about abused and neglected youths," Mr. Tabatsko said. "He had a good touch with kids but was stern when necessary."

Mr. Fitzgerald was also a board member of the Bowling Brook Preparatory School, a boarding facility for troubled boys in Keymar.

In retirement, Mr. Fitzgerald carved and painted a variety of birds, which he exhibited and sold at local craft shows.

"It's an incredible amount of minute detail work he put into the birds -- each feather was painted, feather by feather," said his son, William T. Fitzgerald Jr. of Baltimore.

Each bird took about four or five months to make. Some of the species he carved included hummingbirds, sparrows, hawks and egrets, which he made to scale and placed on a handmade, nature-like setting.

"He did it to stay active, but he became quite good at it. Very good," his son said.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow at Ascension Episcopal Church, 23 N. Court St. in Westminster.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by a daughter, Diane Painter of Newport, Ore.; a son, Brian W. Fitzgerald of Middleburg, Va.; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/28/97

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