Kate FitzGerald died peacefully on August 4th at home with her family. Born to Catherine and Niall O’Connor, Kate grew up in Dublin, attended school in Rathnew and studied history and archaeology at UCD.
A gifted artist like her mother, she had initially enrolled in the College of Art, but spent more time in occupation of, rather than attendance at, that institution at a turbulent time in its history. Kate retained her love of art, her creativity and her sense of democratic insurgency throughout her life. Her humour, intelligence and utter selflessness made her lifelong friendsacross the world.
Married and a mother as a student, she learned quickly that the Ireland of the 1960s made little room for young families. Ever practical, she co-founded a daycare centre that lasts to this day in Donnybrook. Her coping talents sustained her family through subsequent moves from London, to Nashville, back to Dublin, Philadelphia and Rome.
In London, now with two children, John and Genevieve, she worked at various jobs, the most interesting one involving hiring strippers to perform at lunchtime in a winebar. She enjoyed her chats backstage as the girls knitted for their babies and the cabs kept the engine running to take them to their next engagement.
Moving to Nashville, but not before she had voted against Margaret Thatcher, Kate felt she had landed on the moon. However, she soon came to appreciate the hospitality, friendliness and ease of the environment as her third child, Hugo, joined the family. Kate made her home the place for children to congregate, her warmth and generosity making lasting friends. Unable to counter her husband’s homing gene, she sustained and supported him during a brief but bruising return to Dublin for a couple of years in the early 90s.
The family then moved to Wayne, a suburb of Philadelphia, where Kate embarked on a career in education, firstat Shipley School and then at West Philadelphia High School, teaching English and history. She imbued her pupils, often from very deprived backgrounds, with her love of history and her fluency in the language. She brought in school supplies and buckets to catch leaking rainwater, argued and advocated for her students in court and attended too many of their funerals. Her work attracted awards from the city, the respect of her colleagues and the love of her pupils.
During this time, her family grown, Kate had the opportunity to return to her art, to travel widely and to spend time with her husband, Garret, in their apartment in Rome. There on her 60th birthday friends, including classmates from Rathnew, travelled from 11 countries to visit her.
A special joy to Kate were her grandchildren, Ben and Madeleine DeLemos and Matias and Zoe FitzGerald. The chatter of her grandchildren filled her house during her final illness and together with all of her family kept her happy, laughing and at peace.
Kate had a particular love of animals, and was known in the family as Madame Noah. She fed birds in winter, supported her rescue dogs, Scotty and Savannah and her cats, Suki, Spooky, Max, Stella and Mimi to longevity, while marvelling at the deer, groundhogs, bees, ducks, squirrels, woodpeckers and owls that filled her garden.
Kate FitzGerald was a selfless person, endowed with artistic, culinary, pedagogic and horticultural talent, devoted to her family and to her pupils, for whom she worked tirelessly. As one of her friends said of her, “she was an adorable person with a rebel attitude”. Besides her immediate family, she is survived by her sisters, Rose Levine and Jane Sheeran, and her brothers, Patrick, Francis and Johnnie O’Connor.