John W. Fitzgerald ~Stone Mills
As the storm front moved throughout the early hours of Friday morning, Trapper Jack, John W. Fitzgerald, 85, Stone Mills set his final trap on the waters of the Perch River. The man, the myth, the legend Trapper Jack, born the son of William and Francis Cummings Fitzgerald in the summer of 1935, he grew up navigating the waters of the St Lawrence River. His passion for the outdoors began with a small bait stand started with his father during his preteen years. Fishing, hunting and trapping were other loves of his life outside. Waking at 4:30 on a Friday morning to drive down to Geneva to catch a load of minnows, or to check just where the beaver were running. With a glance of a marshland he could predict the perfect spot to set his traps or to pull his canoe into and wait for that flock of ducks or geese to fly over and land. His grandson Greg inherited Jacks enthusiasm for the outdoors as Jack mentored and taught him the bait business and trapping world. Turkey hunting trips with his Granddaughter Kristen and the pride when she got her first beard. Fishing trips with his son Tim when he visited from Virginia and all season long with grandsons Chad and Nathan and Alex. He even tried to share his enthusiasm for the winter weather with his southern grandson Josh when they would come up for their Christmas visits. Josh wasn’t always so convinced. A visit with Jack was never boring. You were bound to hear adventure from the old days and the names like Gene Sanford, Walt Paddock, Charlie MacCarger, and Art Gamble in the mix. Stories of great bounties and freezers full of beaver and muskrat pelts waiting for the fur auction. Believe me when I say, you were a little leery to open a garage freezer. Speaking of leery, be careful if you happened to stop by at dinner time and there was a pot of stew on the stove. You were a little fearful of what the “beef” part was, and the vegetables were fresh from his garden that he tended to religiously. Fish fries of perch, blue gill, walleye and bullheads for his family were another meal you might be treated to.
Tales of Gunn’s Corners, Omar Hotel, and downtown Alex Bay with Bob Kissell were bound to circulate the breakfast table Sunday morning after a night of circling the dance floor. In his later years the sporting events of his grandchildren Ryan, Trevor, Nathan, and Alex is where he could be found. Whether it be on the stands at a football, baseball, or lacrosse game or watching a wrestling match only to have Trevor collapse from exhaustion on the mats in front of them to ask “did he win?” And even though Jack couldn’t attend all of his other grandchildren’s events he loved them just as much and bragged of their individual achievements often. Jack was a member of the American Legion in Dexter and the National Trappers Association.
He married Valery Seymour in 1954 and the couple moved to Stone Mills in 1960. Jack made a living as a welder, a way to make a buck as he would say. Valery passed away in a car accident at Gunn’s Corners in 1979. Jack remarried Carol Schofield Napieracz in 1990 and the couple continued raising their family in Stone Mills. He is survived by his wife Carol J, nine children, sons Robert (Marka), SC, Steven, Watertown, Tim (Kim), Virginia, daughters Carol Cerow, Watertown, Susan (Bill Sullivan) Magee, Clayton, Deborah(Mark)Frickman, Dexter, Jayne (the late Marty)Vachon, Chaumont, Nancy Monica, Parish, and Lori (Ray) Warner, Dexter. 2 brothers Gary, Watertown, and Jerry (Marcia) Alex Bay, several grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Besides his parents he is predeceased by a sister Gayle Fitzgerald and a great granddaughter, Madison, and a great grandson, Jacob Michael.
Calling hours will be held from 1 to 3 p.m., Monday March 29th at the Johnson Funeral Home in Dexter with service to follow. Please bring a story to share as this is a celebration of his life.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Hospice of Jefferson County. Online condolences may be made at www.dexterfuneralhome.com.