Emagene ‘Jean’ Fitzgerald

Emagene “Jean” Fitzgerald, 91, State College, died early Tuesday morning at The Fairways at Brookline, State College, after a brief illness. For the four weeks of her illness, her family constantly and lovingly embraced her.

She was born Emagene Mae Mertz in St. Johns, Ohio, the eldest child of Carson and Farrel Mertz. She married Clinton Howard Fitzgerald on New Year’s Day in 1944 at the Nittany Avenue home of the Rev. and Mrs. Howard Fitzgerald. They met at Penn State in the early 1940s while she was a secretary at the college and he was an engineering student. Their love helped them endure the separations caused by his service as a U.S. Navy officer during WWII. Together again after the war, they both found work at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Co. in Baltimore, Md., she as a secretary and he as an electrical-mechanical engineer.

In the late 1940s, they moved to Franklin, where he continued his career as an engineer at the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co., and their first child, Charles, was born. A final move to State College came in 1952 as he accepted a job offer from the then Ordinance Research Laboratory (Army Research Laboratory) on the Penn State campus, and Michael, Ann and Richard were born in the coming years.

Surviving are two sons: Pastor Charles A. and wife, Jill, of rural Tyrone and Richard D. and wife, Carol, of State College; six beloved grandchildren: Kristen Fitzgerald and Bill of Pittsburgh, Emily and Andrew Schuchart of Syracuse, N.Y., Melissa (Patrick) Manion of St. Clair and Michael Auman of Middleburg; four great-grandchildren: Cody, Jace and Emma Manion and Kaden Auman; and a brother, Carson “Sonny” Mertz (Barbara) of Sandy Lake.

Jean’s sister, Marjorie Ann (Mertz) Inniss, died in 1987.

The sorrow of her life was the loss of three children. William Mertz Fitzgerald died at birth in 1961. Ann died in 1989 at 35 after a lifelong battle with juvenile diabetes. Michael died at 51 in 2004 after a lifelong battle with juvenile diabetes. Jean’s care and love for these diabetic children was the best a mother could give, and their passing left her in grief all her days.

As a beloved family photo of Jean in front of Old Main shows, she proudly dedicated parts of her life, early and late, to being a secretary in many departments at Penn State. She once served a brief time in the president’s office. She loved her profession, working into her 70s and learning new skills during an assignment at the Pattee Library. Caring with total devotion for two chronically-ill children, then her mother and then her seriously-ill husband for 40 years altogether, there was little time for full-time work. Her times at Penn State were cherished to the very end.

A “typical State College 1950s mom,” Jean made time for her children’s activities like Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, PTA meetings, soccer practices, basketball practices, Junior Museum and more and to her beloved St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Sunday school class.

Most of all, even while being by her admission a very private person, she was able to reach out to others as a person of grace and generosity. She was a quietly beautiful person who enjoyed a good piece of pie at the Autoport or the sending of flowers to a friend or neighbor on any occasion she could think flowers should be sent.

Jean will be remembered by a time of visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, 2013, at Koch Funeral Home, State College. A Service in Witness to the Resurrection will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013, at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Pine Hall, 1795 W. College Ave., State College, officiated by her son. At Jean’s request, there will be no viewing at the visitation or service.

The family requests with appreciation that gifts be given to St. Paul’s UMC, 109 McAllister St., State College, PA, 16801, and to St. Peter’s UCC in Jean’s name.

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