THE death of Dick Fitzgerald, the Adare hotelier, businessman and GAA zealot who walked the world with a smile on his face, has greatly saddened his friends, neighbours, colleagues and the many customers who knew him from the Woodlands House Hotel and Spa.
Mr Fitzgerald died on Tuesday in the Blackrock Clinic, Dublin following a short illness.
And the man who considered his family his fortune met his death surrounded by his heartbroken wife, Mary and their children, David, Elaina, Conor and Richard.
“We are devastated. It was a very sad day here on Tuesday,” Maeve Martin-Kelly, the manager of Adare Heritage Centre said. “He was such a character, always available, always up-beat. He would brighten up your day. The village won’t be the same without him.”
Margaret O’Shaughnessy, of the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum and West Limerick Tourism, also paid tribute to Mr Fitzgerald.
“The biggest loss of all is obviously to Mary and to his family. But he is a great loss to the whole of the county,” Ms O’Shaughnessy said.
“He was such an affable man, always there to greet you and to say hello. He was a great ambassador for tourism.”
Mr Fitzgerald, a native of Laccabawn, Castleisland began market-gardening in Adare in the late 1960s and in 1977, he and his wife Mary opened a four-bedroom guesthouse
By 1983, they were ready to go for hotel status and in the 30-plus years since, the premises has been transformed and expanded into the 89-bedroom Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel and Spa.
The Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire, Cork has since been added to the stable.
Dick, along with wife Mary, always had a very hands on approach to the business, one that has been passed on to their children. A proud Kerryman, Dick was equally passionate about Limerick GAA.
He was a regular attender at county and local matches and was particularly proud that his son Conor played both senior hurling and football for Limerick.
Mr Fitzgerald will be mourned at his home from 2-8pm this Thursday and his remains will be brought to the Holy Trinity Abbey Church, Adare for Requiem Mass at 11am on Friday. He will be buried afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
“We have great memories of him. We are very thankful to have had him for so long,” his daughter Elaina said this Wednesday. “He fitted more into his life than some people would do in ten lifetimes. They don’t make men like him any more. We are celebrating his life.”
Her dad, she said, was a very hard-working man and someone who always had a welcome for people.
He was also a “trickster and a rogue”,
“We look back with only the best of memories,” she added. “We have two lifetimes of laughs behind us.”
The family, she continued, was very grateful for their father’s last days.
“Not every family gets the grace to reflect and to remember and to say goodbye.”
Mr Fitzgerald is survived by his wife and four children, his daughters-in-law Orla and Elaine, Aislinn, son-in-law Myles, grandchildren Kerry, Milo, James, Connie, Ruby and Tommy, mother-in-law Helen Ryan, sisters Mary (Tangney), Sheila (Horgan), Eileen (Spillane), brothers Jim, Dan and David, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, cousins, all extended family, the teams at Woodlands House Hotel & Spa and the Vienna Woods and a large circle of good neighbours and friends.