OBITUARY

Thomas Candol Fitzgerald

August 23, 1929March 13, 2021
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Thomas Candol Fitzgerald passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family, after a brief battle with cancer on the morning of March 13, 2021 in Henderson, Nevada; he was 91 years old. Thomas, affectionately known as Tom or Tommy, was the 5th of six children born to Thomas Allan and Candida Fitzgerald. He arrived into the world on August 23, 1929 in Legazpi City, Philippines on a staircase before his mother could be taken to a hospital. After his own father’s unexpected death in 1933, his mother eventually remarried and gave birth to his four half siblings.

As a young boy, his family was living a quiet life in the beautiful Bicol region when World War II began and the resulting Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1941. His schooling, sports and all enjoyable activities were interrupted during this dark period. His only mission at that time was to survive. At 15, he was traveling through central Luzon in the north with a 60-passenger convoy when they were stopped by Japanese soldiers and suspected of guerrilla activities. He was 1 of only 4 survivors of the ensuing massacre. Alone and almost 500 miles away from his family, Tom was taken in by the Mania family. He remained with them as they fled into the jungle evading capture for 6 months. During this time, Tom provided much needed food for the Mania family, becoming a skilled fisherman and frog hunter. After the American liberation of the Philippines in 1945, Tom was finally reunited with his own family. His older brother John and many friends did not survive the war.

In 1946, Tom was 17 years old when he was sent to the island of Samar, some 200 miles from home. With the help of two other teenagers, he refurbished three LST Landing Craft vessels left abandoned on a beach by the Americans after the war. The repairs took 7 months to make the vessels seaworthy. The 3 teenagers then sailed them back to Legazpi where they were used to transport people and cargo as all the bridges in the area were destroyed by retreating Japanese forces towards the end of the war. He also learned to skipper PT Boats, purchased as surplus from the Philippine government. Tom later moved to Manila to work for Captain Manuel Isidoro, a tug boat captain he knew from his hometown of Legazpi City.

Being a US citizen by birth, Tom enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1953 during the Korean War. He served aboard the U.S.S. Nemasket and was also stationed in Naples, Italy serving with NATO allies at a listening post high up in the mountains. While stationed in Italy, Tom enjoyed traveling through many European countries. With the rank of Petty Officer 3rd class, Tom left the U.S. Navy in 1957 and requested to be discharged at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard in New York with the goal to search for his father’s family living in Long Island. Without a list of names or addresses, he mailed a letter to every Fitzgerald listed in the Long Island phone book. He received a reply from his cousin Michael Fitzgerald, who arranged for him to meet the entire Fitzgerald family. They were equally elated to be reunited and learn more about Tom’s family in the Philippines.

Tom left New York after accepting a former shipmate’s invitation to relocate to the West Coast. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1957 and was stationed at Hamilton AFB in Novato, CA working atop Mount Tamalpais’ radar station. While serving full time in the U.S. Air Force, he pursued a college degree and attended night school. Throughout his overseas enlistments in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, Tom kept in touch with a young woman he had met 9 years’ prior who lived across the street from Captain Manuel Isidoro’s family in Manila. Her name was Josefina Manuel and they married on May 8, 1961 after he graduated from Golden Gate University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Traffic Management and Commerce. Upon leaving the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Staff Sergeant, Tom then began a 30-year career with Matson Navigation Company based in San Francisco. During his early years at Matson, he was the very first customer of a new courier service that would become DHL. Tom and Josefina, also known as Josie or Nanette, lived in San Francisco before settling into their first home in Pacifica, California in 1966 with their three children: Michael, Thomas and Catherine. Tom always prioritized quality family time over continuous career advancement with long work days.

Tom was a dedicated and involved family man. A devoted husband and a present, supportive, and fun-loving father. He was a life-long learner and self-motivated to learn how to repair and build many things for the benefit of his family. Working only on weekends, he single-handedly built a large backyard patio, brick by brick, for his young children to play on – a project that took almost a year to complete. In 1977, the family moved to their 2nd home in Concord, California, which became the epicenter for holiday gatherings, work events and countless pool parties. He loved the role of Host and was often the first on the dance floor. He was also an excellent cook who’s Filipino pancit dish remains unmatched. He continued taking on challenging home improvement projects, while making time for his new found passion for playing golf. After a round of golf, he’d often take a nap on the couch with his favorite family pet dog, Windsor. Tom eventually retired from Matson Navigation Company as the Manager of Revenue Accounting Department with 30 direct reports. Many of his colleagues considered Tom a dear friend and mentor who were grateful he gave them opportunities under his leadership. With their children grown, Tom and Josie decided on a change of scenery and moved to Henderson, Nevada in 1999. Both retired, they spent the next 20+ years traveling to many countries in 6 continents by car, plane, train and cruise ship. Tom relished in meeting new people, sharing stories and experiencing different cultures. Closer to home, they sometimes tried their luck at the casino (nickel) slot machines followed by a trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet with sugar-free desserts.

Through the decades Tom enjoyed many camping and fishing trips, large family get-togethers and many visits back to his home country of the Philippines. Because of the hardships he encountered in his life, he believed in the importance of giving back and helping those in need. Everyone could count on him for advice, honesty and humor. His greatest joy was quality time with his grandchildren and watching them grow up. From feeding them with baby bottles and playing chess with them… to attending birthday parties, sporting events and school graduations… to playing mini-golf and sliding down waterslides with them at age 89 – he loved every minute!

Tom is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Josefina; their three children: Michael, Thomas and Catherine; and two half siblings, Romeo and Rudolfo. Tom will be greatly missed by his 5 grandchildren: Brandon, Lauren, Thomas IV, Jack and Chase. All who knew Tom are inspired by his kindness, wisdom and ability to live a full life with integrity. His stories, life lessons and cherished memories will live on in the hearts of his extended family and countless friends.

Visitation for Thomas will be on Sunday, April 11, 2021 from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM with a Rosary at 6:00 PM, at Palm Boulder Highway Mortuary, 800 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson, NV 89015. A Funeral Mass will be a 10:00 AM, Monday, April 12, 2021 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 2300 Sunridge Heights Parkway, Henderson, NV 89052. Thomas will be laid to rest with Military Honors at 12:00 PM at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 1900 Veterans Memorial Drive, in Boulder City, NV 89005.

Due to COVID-19, all government restrictions will be in place, and all guests in attendance will be required to wear a mask.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.palmboulderhighway.com for the Fitzgerald family.

Services

  • Visitation

    Sunday, April 11, 2021

  • Rosary Service

    Sunday, April 11, 2021

    VIEW VIDEO

  • Funeral Mass

    Monday, April 12, 2021

    VIEW VIDEO

  • Graveside Service

    Monday, April 12, 2021

Memories

Thomas Candol Fitzgerald

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Charles Fitzgerald

April 11, 2021

Special memories with family that will always be cherished. From your loving nephew and family.

Julie Brim

April 10, 2021

We are so sorry for your loss and send our deepest sympathies. What an amazing life Mr. Fitzgerald led! He is truly an inspiration. We are personally so grateful to him and Mrs. Fitzgerald for bringing our wonderful friend, Catherine into this world. We are so blessed to have her and your wonderful family in our lives.

With much love and gratitude,

Vince, Julie, Ronan and Makenna

Jason Bernier

April 4, 2021

Jason Bernier

April 4, 2021

Jason Bernier

April 4, 2021

Jason Bernier

April 4, 2021

Jason Bernier

April 4, 2021

Jason Bernier

April 4, 2021

Amy McLaughlin

April 3, 2021

I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to the Fitzgerald family. Thomas was a honorable, outstanding man who was such a positive influence to all who knew him. I know through Catherine how much his beloved wife, children, grandchildren, family and friends meant to him. His love of family, travel, the Philippines and the United States will always be remembered. He served his country with dignity and respect. May God’s peace and love lift you all from sorrow.

With love and respect,

Amy McLaughlin Smith

Jason Bernier

April 3, 2021

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Baby Thomas held by his "yaya" (lower left) and with his older siblings and mama (late 1929)

FROM THE FAMILY

The Fitzgerald Brothers
- circa 1938

FROM THE FAMILY

...visiting Mama and his siblings (Elizabeth, John, Rudolfo, Romeo) in the Philippines

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

...on the way to dance class w/ brother William (holding 45 records and record player)

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY