Jim was born on Monday, October 12, 1936 in Stamford, TX to Ennis and Mary (Lawrence) Fitzgerald. From an early age he was fascinated and loved working with machinery and tools. By the age of 8, he spent his free time learning the skills of carpentry alongside his father. At Abilene High School (in Abilene, TX), he was active in Track & Field and shop. But it was the sassy personality of a certain young red head, by the name of Georganna Lee, that caught his eye and captured his heart. The couple spent many 'dates' riding his Triumph Trophy motorcycle along the open roads of Abilene.
On November 24, 1954 Jim and his High School sweetheart, Georganna Lee were married. It was a quintessentially warm and sunny Texas day. Together, they raised three wonderful children: David, Kenneth, and Melody. Life was busy with a young family to support. During the day, while Georganna managed the children and the household, Jim was busy at Bell Helicopter fabricating parts. The evenings were filled with night school at the University of Texas at Arlington. In 1968 he received his BA degree.
With the job of running a machine manufacturing facility waiting for him, Jim moved the family to Marshall in 1972 to manage Wesco Valve. In 1978, he joined Ed Baker and started E. Baker and Associates. He had always dreamed of owning his own machine manufacturing business, and so, it was in 1990 that he established Magnum Machine & Mfg. Magnum Machine & Mfg. continues today under the leadership of his son, Kenneth.
Jim had a passion for serving others. He expressed this service primarily through Rotary – but also in-service projects for First Baptist Church Marshall, The Marshall News Messenger, and Marshall High School Band. In Rotary, he was an avid and contributing member of the Rotary Club of Marshall for over thirty years. During that time, Jim served in numerous positions of the club, including president and eventually as Governor of District 5830. His long service included sponsoring several area Rotary Club formations, scholarships for at risk High School students, guiding the inauguration of a Rotary club at Wiley College, and the Marshall Rotary Flags program - among many others. Across the region, Jim was instrumental in training new club presidents through Texas Rotary President Elect Training. Internationally, Jim and his wife Georganna traveled to the Philippines to commission a Rotary Humanitarian Matching Grant to provide clean water and public toilets with septic systems in the Orani Philippines area. While there, he assisted a surgical mission treating over 300 children and adults. Eradication of polio and preventable diseases were always close to his heart and he was a major donor to the Rotary Foundations Polio Vaccination Program.
Jim was also a patented inventor. A problem solver. His inventive and ever busy mind was always searching for solutions to everyday problems. Like many inventors, not every idea was a winner. But others were huge hits. His inventions revolutionized natural gas engine push rods, wax slabbing, compressed air dehydration and others. His ideas extended beyond work to the community. One recommendation he made – to reduce traffic accidents along Highway 59 – was to widen turn lanes to accommodate long pine logging trucks.
But Jim’s greatest joy was his family and bringing smiles to friends and neighbors. Some will remember Jim for his annual Santa Claus performance. Sitting in the window of his home, dressed as Santa Claus he would wrap presents all evening, as cars and buses passed by. Looking up from time-to-time, to wave, he was eager to see the look of astonishment in the children’s faces. His family will remember him for his warmth, welcoming spirit and generous soul. He and Georganna were never happier than being at family get-togethers surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Jim was preceded in death by his daughter Mary Dell and his sisters, Freida, Rachel, Eunice, Onita, and Juanita, and only brother, Ralph. He is survived by his wife, Georganna, his three children, David, Kenneth, and Melody. His nine prolific grandchildren, Cullen, Lauren, Erin, Crystal, DeAnna, Chris, Virginia “Gini”, Sarah and Jeremy, and by 14 great-grandchildren, Rocket, Audi, Daxxus, Draven, Alice, Xander, Liedric, Sophie, Mary, Jaxon, Lillian, Ford, Lincoln and Kennedy.
Jim was always concerned for others. Given that concern and his desire for all to stay healthy, there will be no public service. Flowers may be sent to Meadowbrook Funeral Home in Marshall, TX, or donations sent to the Rotary Club of Marshall.
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