Leading figure in musical circles and community
OBITUARY: Tom Fitzsimons, Navan
The funeral took place in Navan on Monday morning of last week Thomas (Tom) Fitzsimons of Mellows Terrace in the town, best known for his association with St Mary's Church Choir and St Mary's Musical Society. He died peacefully at his home on Friday 18th November, aged 83.
His life was lived between his home in Mellows Terrace and St Mary's Church, and his daily walk along Academy Street and across the Fair Green symbolised this life in the town to which he belonged – family, parish, and the life and people of the town in between, Fr Declan Hurley said at his funeral Mass in St Mary's Church on Monday.
His two families were signified in the symbols brought to the altar – a photograph of his family, and his choir folder, representing his second family.
He had joined the church choir as a nine year-old invited by Fr Gerard Herbert, and later graduated to the adult choir as a 14 year-old.
Tom Fitzsimons was the fourth child in a family of eight born to John and Margaret Fitzsimons of New Lane, off Flower Hill, Navan. His parents had a love of music and song. After leaving the De La Salle school at 14, he went to work in Geraghty's Furniture Factory, when Navan was the 'furniture capital' of the world. He later worked as a spray hand polisher with Ashleaf Furniture.
In 1960, Tom married Betty Whelan from Crerogue, Kilmessan, and he combined family, work, parish and community activities for the next 60 years or so.
This included the FCA, church choir, bingo, the Friendship Club run by the Red Cross, the Legion of Mary, the annual Lions Club senior citizens Christmas entertainment, organising pilgrimages to Lough Derg, and involvement in the parish pastoral council. He travelled to Lourdes and Fatima, and was devoted to Padre Pio.
He was a founding member of St Mary's Musical Society, and one of the stalwarts and stars over the years, and made numerous recordings of songs and hymns for various charities, raising €25,000.
In the 1980s, he set up a singing competition between the various estates in Navan, known as 'Community Nights', with money raised going to charity.
In 1984, the winner of the best overall act was Peadar Farrelly, who performed another role as undertaker on Monday. Tom also presented a 'This is Your Life' to the late Fr Andy Farrell as one of these events.
In 2005, Tom was runner-up in the RTE Radio 1 All-Ireland Active Age Talent Showcase, hosted by Gay Byrne in the National Concert Hall, singing 'The Old Man'. He was also co-founder and chairperson of Navan Active Retirement.
He was honoured for his work, with a Melvin Jones Fellowship by the Lions Club International Foundation in 2005; by the church with a Papal Benemerenti in 2006, and with a civic reception by Navan Town Council and Mayor Phil Brennan in 2010.
Even in his final illness, Tom was co-ordinating the choir roster for November, organising soloists, musicians and choirs from his hospital bed, and past and present members came together again for his funeral this week.
On Friday, the evening of his death, in a Solstice Arts Centre concert, Curtis Stigers and Brian Byrne dedicated the last song of the night to Tom Fitzsimons.
The legendary American singer, songwriter, saxophonist and guitarist, Stigers who has been touring USA and Europe, was joined by the LA-based Navan native composer Brian Byrne at Solstice. They dedicated the 1991 hit, 'I Wonder Why' to Tom.
Also on Friday, former St Mary's Musical Society member, and West End singer, William Byrne, paying tribute, said: “A gentleman who truly personified all that is and was good about Navan and its community.... St Mary’s Musical Society, Navan Male Voice Choir, on the altar for Mass on a Sunday, in Paddy’s singing 'Ol' Man River' at many post show sessions, and just about any community or social occasion in Navan that was worth being at. His love of music and the arts and community was abundantly obvious to anyone who met him. His legacy lives in his family, many of whom possess talents that surely could only have been hatched watching and witnessing Tom’s love of all things creative. Navan is a poorer place this evening but so enriched for his contribution.”
Pre-deceased in 2015 by his wife Betty, Tom is survived by his family, Marie, Janette, Anna, Sean, Paul, Edel and Linda; grandchildren, great-grandchildren; companion, Nuala Goonan; sons-in-law, daughters-in-law; brothers, Jimmy, Pat and Tony, sisters Bridie, Teasie and Margie, and extended family.
Fr Tony Gavin assisted at the funeral Mass in St Mary's Church, with burial afterwards in St Mary's Cemetery, Navan.