Obituary for Matt Fitzgerald; judge, professor, community servant

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

HYDE PARK – The Honorable “Irish RM” Matt Fitzgerald of Hyde Park, adjourned court for the last time on January 18, 2022, when, age 86, he died peacefully at home in his sleep.

The baby of the family, he was born in The Bronx on June 18, 1935; he was predeceased by his parents, Peter and Annie, and brothers Joseph, Larry, and Peter. He is survived by his loving family, including matriarch Eileen Neville; his four children, daughters Veronica Fitzgerald (Gordon Kaedy) of Troy and Patricia Fitzgerald of Leeds and sons Regan (Carolyn) of Redondo Beach, CA and Corey of Atlanta, GA; sister-in-law Patricia Neville; and grandchildren Devin Kaedy, Gareth Kaedy, and Rowan Jones.

Irish RM (Resident Magistrate) Matt Fitzgerald

Shortly after graduating from Cardinal Hayes High School in 1953 Matt joined the United States Army and served for two years. Like many of his generation, he attended college while working full time, studying police science at CUNY Baruch. He graduated in 1963 and went on to earn a Master’s of Social Work from Fordham University in 1966.

Matt proudly served the New York City Police Department from 1957 to 1967 as a patrolman and investigator, where he experienced some of the best and the worst his city had to offer. In addition to providing the fodder for countless stories, this work fueled Matt’s commitment to public service.

In 1968 the family moved to Hyde Park where Matt began a 35-year career as a professor of criminal justice at Dutchess Community College and adjunct instructor at Marist College, where he is still fondly remembered by many former students for the incredible impact he had on their lives.

He was elected Hyde Park Town Justice in 1977 and sat on the bench until he retired in 2003. Widely regarded as tough and fair, Judge Fitzgerald was often elected with the endorsement of both political parties.

Throughout his career, Matt shared his expertise on numerous committees and advisory councils including the Citizens Council of the NYS Correction Commissions; the Police Services Advisory Committee of the Dutchess County Legislature; and the Dutchess County Youth Board, which he also chaired. He drew both praise and condemnation for his steadfast advocacy of building an exercise yard for the inmates of the Dutchess County Jail.

Matt was always there to help others, from facilitating his many connections to clipping and sending interesting newspaper articles about every topic under the sun. He came to relish his role as the family Uber driver, taking us everywhere from the post office to the mall to the airport of our choosing.

He delighted in his family’s growing brood of dogs and loved to share both his lap and his dinner with them.

But nothing surpassed his love of Ireland and his passion for introducing his grandchildren to traditions, music, stories, and festivities through many cherished years together at Irish Arts Week Camp in the Catskills, St. Patrick’s Day parades, and sharing his table at dinner dances. At the céilís Matt’s soda bread was legendary and he was a top fundraiser for Irish organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, where his penchant for selling raffle tickets was its own kind of legend.

Friends and family are invited to call from 4:00 to 7:00 PM, Wednesday, January 26th, at Sweet’s Funeral Home, Rte. 9, Hyde Park. A short prayer vigil will take place at approximately 5 PM and following that we will invite brief words of tribute by those wishing to speak.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 AM, Thursday, January 27th, at Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel of St. Peter’s Parish, 185 Hudson View Drive, Poughkeepsie. United States Army honors will follow.

In keeping with his wishes, cremation will take place, and his ashes will be inurned in Our Lady of the Holy Souls Mausoleum at St. Peter’s Cemetery at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations honoring Matt’s generous spirit be made to the Dutchess County Ancient Order of Hibernians, P.O. Box 1530, Wappingers Falls, NY, 12590.

Matt touched the life of every person he met and his passing will leave a large hole in his community and in our family. A poster that once hung in his office asked simply: “Will it matter that I was?” We’re sure everyone who knew Matt will answer with a resounding, “Yes!”