Archive for April, 2023

How do you write an obituary for a great writer? James Carey Fitzpatrick, 76, died on February 9, 2023 while on vacation in Fort Myers, Florida. As a Pulitzer prize award-winning reporter and editor for The Kansas City Times and Star for 37 years, Jim, or “Fitz” to his colleagues, was a true believer in the power of a story.

Jim was born in Louisville, Kentucky. His quick wit, curious nature, and love for writing was sparked by his parents, Robert J. Fitzpatrick, an accountant and professor, and Mary Louise Carey Fitzpatrick, a literature professor. Jim moved to Kansas City in 1969 to work for the Kansas City Times on the city desk. Starting as an obituary writer, he made his mark early on by convincing the night city editor to allow him to cover a rock concert and interview Janice Joplin. Jim captured the essence of the musical legend at Memorial Hall in 1970, and that story helped launch his career. Jim went on to cover Jackson County government for 14 years and KCMO government for 10 years as a beat reporter. With a promotion to editor, he managed news bureaus in KCK, Independence, and Johnson County before retiring in 2006.

After Jim’s retirement, he had a brief stint as a substitute teacher, but decided he wanted a more “relaxed” retirement (a.k.a. playing golf, walking the dog, reading the paper, and taking naps). He began volunteering with local organizations including The Whole Person, Funeral Consumers Alliance, Lead to Read, and Country Club Christian Church. At the time of his death, Jim was City of Fountains Foundation board president. As a true Louisvillian, Jim loved horse racing, especially the Kentucky Derby. In his younger days, he hosted “Jim’s Derby Day Party,” attracting quite a crowd, including a U.S. senator and vice-presidential candidate. He especially enjoyed donning Derby attire (and of course a dapper hat) and heading to Louisville for Derby Day with Patty and the kids. Jim also continued his writing career with a blog, JimmyCSays.com, where since 2010 he candidly shared his opinion on everything from politics and murder trials to the plight of newspapers today, travels with family and friends, music, sports, and whatever captured his attention. He could often be heard tapping away at his keyboard late into the night–just like he was on deadline for the paper again.

Jim was usually in reporter mode, trying to find out as much as he could about people, places, history, and the arts. He could talk to anyone and within a few minutes knew all about their job, family, and probably someone they knew in common. From a brief interaction to lifelong friends, Jim left an impression. Never one to hold back, he was an entertainer, life of the party and always ready to crack a joke or deliver a witty line. Once while visiting Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, Jim and the family were riding the elevator down into the coal mine exhibition. The dark elevator was packed with people, and after a minute of silence, Jim began quietly singing, “Workin’ in a coal mine, goin’ down, down, down” by Lee Dorsey, getting louder and louder, and people started to chuckle. It certainly broke the silence in the elevator. Of course, his kids turned beet red and tried to silence the “madman.” As they got older, they found his antics funny and charming–most of the time.

Jim is survived by his wife of 38 years, Patty, and his daughter Brooks, and son Charlie. In his last days, he was playing golf with some of his closest friends, sharing ice cream with Patty, and enjoying his vacation in Florida. The shock of losing him will never be eased, but Jim was embracing life. His big laugh, twinkling eyes, goofy grin, loving spirit, generosity, and tender heart will be deeply missed, forever cherished, and carried on in our memories, and all of his stories, his gifts to us all.

A visitation will be at 3pm with a 4pm memorial service on Thursday, April 13 at Country Club Christian Church, 6101 Ward Parkway. A reception follows at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to City of Fountains Foundation, PO Box 8912, KCMO 64114 or The Whole Person, 3710 Main St. KCMO 64111.

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