James Fitz Sullivan
James Fitz Sullivan was born March 25, 1901 in Ontario, Wisconsin. He was the only child of a James Patrick and his second wife, Bessie (nee Burke). When James Fitz was 5 years old his father passed away and shortly thereafter, a flood from the Kickapoo River, Moore's Creek and Brush Creek swamped the town of Ontario and in the process made the Sullivan home inhabitable and most of the family records disappeared.
His mother left Ontario so that she could find work to support her family which consisted of James Fitz and his step-brother, Archie and step-sisters Mary and Libby. They settled in Fort Dodge, Iowa where James Fitz spent the majority of his childhood.
James' had numerous jobs as a youth to help the family out. He delivered groceries by horse and wagon, became a messenger for Western Union and Postal Telegraph and delivered the local newspaper, Fort Dodge Messenger. He was the first child to ever sell the paper on the streets of Fort Dodge. As he aged, he began working in gypsum mills at a variety of tasks.
Shortly, before the end of World War I, James moved to Omaha, Nebraska. He lied about his age, as his father before him had done, and was inducted October 21, 1918 and was then discharged November 11, 1918 when the armistice had been signed.
He was unable to find work because of the number of returning war veterans returning home so re-enlisted on April 1, 1919. He went to Fort Collins, Colorado for training, and was then assigned to the 19th Infantry out of Douglas, Arizona. He was later transferred to the 96th Bombardment Squadron, where he flew border patrol from Douglas to Laredo, Texas. While stationed in Texas, he joined the Masons. He would remain an active member and would be one of very few members to receive a 79 year commemorative.
He went home to Omaha, Nebraska and while there, married Marie Klotz. They would eventurally have three children, Bessie, Naomi and James.
He was transferred to Langley Field in Virgina where he was in charge of suppy and cost accounting systems. He made Technical Sergeant and was commisioned a 2nd Lieut. in the Air Corps Reserve. He remained at Langley until his enlistment expired and the family returned to Omaha
Upon returning to Omaha, James became a cashier in a grocery but it didn't take long for him to realize that it was not a job for him. Using his military training, he got a job with the Nebraska Power Company. He would start in the supply department and later be transferred to the substation department, where he served a 3 1/2 year apprenticeship and became a master wireman. It was during this time, he discovered a love of writing while writing a column for the comany newsletter.
In 1936, he joined the International Brotherhood of Electical Workers Union and became very active in union affairs. He served as the union's business agent and secretary and later became the president of the AFL Central Labor Union.
An accident which took 3 of the lives of the 5 man team, landed James Fitz in the hospital. After recuperating, he was asked by the union to take a LOA from Nebraska Power and to convince Omaha manufactureres to obtain defense contracts which would bolster the work for the union members.
When James Fitz learned of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he resigned all his job and tried to re-enlist in the Air Force. He was told they were not interested in someone of his age so he headed to the Navy where he had heard they were in need of trained craftsman and would wave age restrictions.
On January 16, 1942 he made his way to Norfolk, Virginia for boot camp and then was sent to Tampa, Florida for training camp. After training, he was told his unit would be transferring to Oakland, California for a secret overseas assignment. This assignment took him to Efate, New Hebrides, South Pacific.
When going about his job in the South Pacific, a scaffolding James was standing on collapsed and he landed on a tent peg, injuring his spine. He was sent to a French Hospital for convalescence. When he returned to his unit, it was now located at Malapoa Point. The newly assigned commander wanted to bolster troop morale by starting a newsletter. After a contest, James found himself the editor and publisher of the Boondock Bulletin.
Due to the injury he had received, he was unable to pass his overseas exam and was sent back to the states. He was assigned to Camp Parks, California and sent to the Fleet Hospital. At this time, they found that lower segments of his spine had been damaged in the earlier accident and he was discharged February 1, 1945 with the rank of Chief Carpenter's mate.
Shortly, after James' return to Omaha, he and Marie were divorced. James became the Safety Inspector for the state of Nebraska. After passing a civil exam, he was hired by the Veterans Administration. Most of his work was with disabled veterans and the GI Bill of Rights. He was driving an average of 1000 miles a week.
With all his driving for his job, in 1954, his spine was giving him alot of trouble. He was examined at the Veterans Administration and medically retired. He bought a Mobile Home and a station wagon and began his pursuit of retirement happiness, traveling throughout the country. Eventually, he settled down in Florida.
The mobile home park where he settled had a social program and it was at one of their dinner functions that he was introduced to Mildred Parry. They married in 1958. Not used to the easy life, it soon became boring to James Fitz, so he began volunteering at various organizations. Mildred shared his drive for volunteer work and they both worked diligiently for various associations and became members of numerous fraternal organizations. He soon began writing a weekly column, Mobile Moods, for the Mobile Home News. He would write his column for 20 years, from 1958 until the paper was sold in 1978.
Among his numerous volunteering, he worked for the Shriners Hospital in Tampa, FL and for the Meals on Wheels program, followed by a 2 hour shift with Neighborhood Watch and all this when in his 70's.
In 1967, he found out about and became a member of the First Construction Battalion. In returning from a reunion, he discovered that there was no Seabee organization in existence in Florida. After talking with the national secretary about starting one in Florida, he went to the local newspaper to begin publicizing the formation. It wasn't long before the applications were pouring in and the charter, Island X-1 came to be with more than 200 members. After the first Construction Battalion Veterans day, held in Cypress Springs, he helped in forming the charter of Island X-2 in the Lakeland area and then the Island X-3 in Sarasota. With the number of local charters being formed, he wondered at the possibility of starting a state organization. The charter was approved and the Florida Departmentment came to be. He declined the position of chairman but agreed to become the secretary. In 1997, at the age of 96, he decided it was time that New Port Richey should have an Island. Island X-17 was formed.
Some of the organizations which James Fitz belonged to: The Orion Grotto of Clearwater, became monarch and lifetime member; Veterans of Foreign Wars-president 1964-1965; F&A.M Dunedin Lodge 192 Junior Warden. appointed Most Worshipful Grandmaster and secretary for 11 years.; Board of Directors Upper Pinellas County Chapter of the American Red Cross; Elder First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin; Eastern Star of Dunedin Lodge 132; Elks Lodge of Dunedin 2275-Exalted Ruler; President Dunedin Council of Organizations; Royal Arch Masons Chapter 45 of Clearwater-High Priest; President Dunedin Chapter of the Nation Association of Retired People; President Dunedin Council of Organizations; Member Board of Directors of the Youth Festival for Pinellas County; Disabled American Veterans Dunedin Chapter 103; Nobles of the Mystic Shrine Life Member; Non Commissioned Officers Association; Life Sponsor Knights Templar Eye Foundation; Charter Member WWII Memorial in Washington DC; Dunedin Historical Society; Special Deputy Sherrif for Pinellas County; Board of Directors Mease Hospital; American Legion Post 0400; Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War; Knight of the York Cross; Lifetime member Seabee Historical Foundation; Dunedin Masonic Lodge.
James Fitz' second wife, Mildred died in 1985. At 84 years old, he found himself alone again. In Feb. 1987, he had met and married a widow he met a church, Dorothy Michaels.They would remain married until her death in April of 2001. After marrying Dorothy, James began to slow down with his volunteer work and discovered a love of gardening and genealogy. And of course, there was his consistent love of writing. Over his lifetime, he wrote more than 300 poems. On his 99th birthday, his book, "Dad's Scribblins and Scratchins" became a reality
On March 24th of 2001, they celebrated James' 100 birthday, with family members gathering from across the country to celebrate the occasion. Within two weeks of the celebration, Dorothy would pass away. James continued to live independently for the next four months, but an accident where he took a fall and injured his hip and aggravating his old back injury saw him move to an assisted living center in Orlando. After six months of pain, on January 31, 2002 James Fitz Sullivan, just shy of six weeks from his 101st birthday, passed away. His funeral in New Port Richey, received full military honors, including a 21 gun salute. The Masons and Seabees also paid tribute to their long time member. He is survived by 3 children, 12 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, 26 great great grandchildren and 2 great, great, great grandchildren.
James Patrick, wife Bessie and a young James Fitz