Source: Sherman Publications

Jim's Jottings
A gift of friendship is such a precious thing
Remembering my friend, Jim "If It Fitz" Fitzgerald

by Jim Sherman, Sr.

January 18, 2012

It is probably a good thing we don’t use logic in picking our friends.

Were that the case, Jim Fitzgerald and I never would have become good friends.

He was Catholic, I Methodist. He was a liberal Democrat, I a conservative Republican.

He was from the city of Port Huron, I’m a boy from Vernon.

He was graduated from Michigan State journalism school, I was a MSU journalism school dropout.

Our common denominator was weekly newspaper experience.

Fitz started working for The Lapeer County Press in 1951. I started working for the Clinton County Republican News in St. Johns in 1951.

Both of us started in sales, both of us wrote high school sports and both of us wrote personal columns for those newspapers.

These two weekly newspapers were in the top five in circulation and prominence in Michigan. They had outstanding publishers.

About 1953, Jim and I met at the annual Michigan Press Association convention at Kellogg Center in East Lansing. We discovered immediately we both enjoyed beveraging and insulting each other. Too, our wives Pat and Hazel hit it off equally well.

In 1975, Fitz was interviewed three times by editors of The Detroit Free Press, then hired as their Back Page columnist. A job he had for years.

He was syndicated in 50 other daily newspapers. While Fitz was writing for The County Press we were permitted to print his previous week’s column in our Oxford Leader. I think it cost me $50 a year.

In 1985, The Free Press published a book of “If It Fitz” columns. The introduction was written by well-known author Elmore Leonard.

He wrote, “He spots the incongruous, the absurd, the pretentious, then treats them with a wry form of logic, straight-faced, that would bring cheers from Mark Twain and Will Rogers.”

In his book to me Fitz wrote, “Onward and upward to my favorite publisher of lousy newspapers.”

He wrote his own obituary, which was only “to be read after my death.” It also said, “I was persuaded to write this by Jim Sherman who said I should help write my obit.”

We’ve stayed beveraging and golfing friends all this time. Neither of us are even average golfers, but we did all right in the other category.

We’ve met at least a couple times a year at The White Horse Inn in Metamora to continue our verbal sniping.

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I had something like a million things to do today, January 11, when son Jim called to tell me Fitz had died.

Suddenly I had nothing to do. Everything became trivial and unimportant.

What can I do? Should I call the family? Maybe I should re-read his “If It Fitz” book. So, I just sat in my easy chair, just as Jim did.

Pat told me recently Jim said he wanted to die like his dad did, sitting in his easy chair.

But I didn’t sit there thinking of dying. I sat for a long time thinking of our opposites, our likenesses, our friendship, our experiences, the similar but different trails we wandered and what a fine thing life gave me when God put we two Jims together.