Marion LeRoy “Punky” Fitzgerald was born May 16th, 1934 to Marion Stanley “Dutch” Fitzgerald and Nellie Mae (nee Frazier) in Plentywood, Montana. His sister Carol Ann was born shortly thereafter.
At age two, LeRoy moved with his family to Anaconda where he spent the rest of his life working hard and meticulously. After moving to Anaconda, Dutch divorced Nellie and married LaVerne and Dad soon gained another sister, MaryLou.
He graduated from Anaconda High School in 1952. Meanwhile across town a beautiful young lady, Norma Marie Huot, was attending Anaconda Central in the first class that graduated from that new school. They both graduated in 1952 and on May 11, 1954 They were married at St. Peter’s Church and had a small reception at Norma’s family home at 512 Monroe. Dad’s best man was a longtime friend, Floyd “Butch” Miller.
Ever industrious, LeRoy worked a number of jobs including being a “messenger” for a local gambling group; a “soda jerk” at Thompson’s Soda Fountain and a pin setter at the bowling alley next to Thompson’s Bar. This is also when he began “puttering and tinkering” with cars.
All his life dad liked to hunt and fish and put a lot of effort and beer into that. He made good friends with folks in Rock Creek near Philipsburg and he and mom leased a cabin on the creek for about 30 years. Most summer weekends found the family and friends fishing, floating and mining for sapphires.
LeRoy never was religious and would only attend church for a wedding or funeral under duress. But that didn’t stop him from proclaiming spirituality in the line Hipshot Percussion, a cowboy character in the comic strip Rick O’Shay. The mountains were important to him and his daily “meditation” involved watching the beautiful mountain view out his kitchen window, where there was always a pair of binoculars to check on the movement of wild animals and later the neighbors.
LeRoy and Norma celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary shortly before her passing in 2014.
They had 2 children Debbie was adopted in 1960 when they found out they would be unable to have their own children. Then 11 years later in 1972 their largest surprise and finest work, Shawn, was born.
LeRoy is survived by daughter, Debbie and her husband Scott Fadness and their son David of Butte; Son Shawn Fitzgerald and his partner Sarah Maciag ( Shawn and Sarah moved in with LeRoy and allowed him to remain at home as he aged allowing him to die in his sleep in his bed in the house that he and Norma built themselves)and Shawn’s daughter Macy.
He is also survived by his sister Carol Thomas and her children and his sister, MaryLou and her husband Alan Johnston and MaryLou’s children Kathleen and Colin Murphy. Sister in Law Patty Phillip and her daughters Jennifer and Kelly; Brother in Law Art Huot and his wife Linda and their children Ken Dan and Pam; Brother in Law John Huot of Helena and his children Janet, Cindy and JohnTom and Gina. Brother in Law Don Wyant of Opportunity and his family. Also survived by nieces and nephews and more distant relations.
Also survived by his great friends Ann Jette and Nola Arvish. And special neighbors Gay Ida and David Stone.
Dad was preceded in death by his wife, mother and father. Also preceding LeRoy in death was his very best friend from childhood, Butch Miller. His passing left a hole in dad’s life. “Punky” and “Butch” were always working on some project or other. The land across the road from dad’s home still has auto glass and small car parts sunk into the ground remaining from their “Midnight Auto Wrecking” business.
LeRoy worked as a mechanic beginning at White motors as an apprentice and then at Thompson Motors where he advanced to Head Mechanic and when Joe and Gerty Thompson retired they sold the business, now Fitzgerald Motors, to LeRoy and Norma in 1980. They ran the business for only a few months before the Anaconda Company closed for good. The city of Anaconda held on including Fitzgerald Motors. Dad always had the idea that people should be honest and hardworking and be given a chance to own a new or used car or have their vehicle repaired correctly and make payments.
Dad was always a member of the Machinists Union and was president in the 1970s. He did many other things besides working on cars. He was a beautiful carpenter, had a great understand of electrical work masonry and plumbing. He could repair most anything and did repair and parts machining for many businesses around town. He had stories about difficult repairs from bakeries, the smelter, the BA&P, and individuals. No matter what he was home for lunch at 12:10 dinner at 5:30 pm and mom had all his meals on the table. Not until he was home alone did he realize what luxury that had been.
When he was in his midlife he found that he was part of the Turtle Mountain tribe of North Dakota. His mother had registered him as a baby but it was not a big part of his life until then. He then got to know many people in St. Ignatius as his benefits revealed themselves as he aged.
Dad got into gardening after retiring as well as garage sale attendance.
Family requests no flowers as there will be no service as LeRoy wanted. Instead, please call or visit someone who may be on their own; help a neighbor; do the right thing. Dad could be stern and hard headed at times but he did always feel people should be kind and was always willing to help out when asked. Meanwhile Shawn and Debbie will be at the family home wondering how to restore “The Big Pink” to its finest glory.
Please visit below to offer a condolence or share a memory of LeRoy.
Axelson Funeral and Cremation Services has been privileged to care for LeRoy and his family.
Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.
Bill Martin says
Punky (and Norma) were special people. I got to know them when I was probably 17 as I had a ‘29 Ford Coupe which I put a Oldsmobile engine in. He helped me make an adaptor plate for a later ford transmission and I needed a lot of parts (brakes, wheels, etc) from the wrecking yard that he and Butch ran, and taught me how to use the acetylene torch and arc weld. After a lot of adventures in that car I sold it and bought a ‘32 Ford sedan. I traded welding the corners and other support parts of the fence that is still around the house for a ‘59 Rambler Rebel engine that had spun a bearing. I fixed that and put the engine, a Nash overdrive transmission and rear end in it while he let me use one bay of his garage. He was a keen analyst as he noted that Gloria was the first girl I ever brought out to work on the car. A few months later I had a great night with him (talking cars and drinking beer) and Norma and Gloria (drinking wine) a few days before our wedding 56+ years ago. We then moved on to graduate school in Nebraska, and Minnesota. On one of our trips back from Minneapolis our car (a ‘51 Nash) developed a wrist pin knock and went south as we limped into town. We didn’t have money for a different car so I decided to rebuild the engine at Punky’s house and Thompsons garage. It took most of the vacation but I finally got it together (as Gloria was fed up with keeping track of the kids), and we towed the ‘32 back to Minnesota. Both cars are still in my garage, along with a 1929 Ford Fordor which I restored.
Over the years we always stopped to visit and get caught up on what happened since our last trip. His interest in developing something that he read about, acquiring ”stuff” at sales, taking a trip on a ATV etc. was always worth the trip. We looked forward to seeing him last summer but COVID didn’t allow that to happen.
Good luck my friend – we’ll drink some Milwaukees Best and some wine in honor of both of you.
Bill and Gloria Martin, Lewisburg, WV
Rick Nelson says
My sincere condolences! Punky was a good friend of my fathers and I grew up hearing many stories where punky played a starring role. When I was kid, he was always stopping by on Sunday afternoons for a visit and brought with him a large catch of fresh fish. My mom was very gracious about it but as soon as he left she’d tell my dad to ask him to fish for anything without scales. I recall the kitchen counter and floor looking like a very large cannister of silver sequin exploded when she was done with the fish. When my brother, Roy, turned 16 Punky got him a job as a “lot boy” at Thompson Motors. Roy bought his first car there, a Rambler, and Punky helped him get it roadworthy. I always wondered why their house and ours were painted pink, they definitely stood out.