Neil Thomas Fitzmorris was summoned by the Lord on November 13, 2018, in Santa Monica. He was 86.
Three years after a devastating stroke, Dad was recently hospitalized with serious infections. He weakened and breathed his last while ashes from the Malibu fires floated in the sky: “When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
Neil is survived by Virginia Rose Fitzmorris: his sweetheart, mother of their eight children and wife of 64 years, eight children, 32 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, his sister Jacqueline Luciani, and his beloved German Shepard, Roland.
Neil was born in Independence, Missouri, November 3, 1932, son of Thomas Kenneth Fitzmorris and Inez Bailey Fitzmorris. Along with older sister Jackie they moved to Muscatine, Iowa, in 1943 where they owned and managed the local Western Auto store.
Neil met Virginia, of Fonda, Iowa, while they were juniors at Iowa State. Married on December 27, 1954, at the end of the ceremony, they drove to Pensacola Florida where Dad started Navy Flight School and a lifetime in aviation. After six years of Navy active duty spent flying the Grumman S2-F, he shifted to the Naval Reserve, eventually commanding a Naval reserve squadron and attained the rank of captain.
After active duty in 1960 Neil studied physics, medicine and then graduate research in neurophysiology at UCLA. In 1966 he joined American Airlines and rose to become a DC-10 Captain. Neil also took over management of his parent’s Western Auto store and in his spare time built a small chain of toy stores in the Quad Cities area. When he retired he personally designed and rebuilt their Palisades home: an ode to Ancient Roman villas.
Neil and Ginny provided the kids with a feature-rich upbringing. Forays to Europe and in support of Neil’s Midwest retailing ventures, his children all enjoyed numerous character-building January trips to count inventory. The kids were also asked to play a sport and a musical instrument. Everyone got to have a pet, so the house was variously full of cats and kittens, German Shepherds, fish, reptiles, hamsters, a rat and Rooney the raccoon.
Neil was an endlessly intellectually curious man who lived out every day his beliefs to help others, family, friends and neighbors alike. An Eagle Scout, Dad had all the skills and values of a true outdoorsman. He could and did fly planes, mountaineer with a map and compass, light a one-match fire, rebuild an engine, design and build a house.
Whenever anyone needed help, Dad was always the one to jump into his car with a few wrenches, a flashlight and a tow rope to rescue stalled cars or stranded travelers. He challenged everyone around him to think deeply and carefully, and always loved a good debate. He taught us the values of compassion for others, independence and self-responsibility of the individual, “of doing the right things right,” and to help each other.
Unapologetic in his views and his values, he understood responsibility and duty and was known to say, “I don’t have to be right, I just have to be Dad.” A Catholic from birth, Dad was secure in receiving grace through faith, and at the same time he lived an exemplary life of good works.
Funeral mass will be held Saturday, December 1, at 11 a.m. at Corpus Christi Church in Pacific Palisades. Internment to follow at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery following the mass. All are welcome.
“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”
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