October 24, 2014

A plan for everything

Longtime member of Whitney Township Planning Commission retires

By John Fischer|Staff Writer
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WHITNEY TOWNSHIP — Don Fitzgerald has spent the last 30 years serving on the Whitney Township planning commission and as of July 21, the only thing he’s planning now is his retirement.

According to Whitney Township Supervisor Francis Semenick, the first time Fitzgerald attended a planning commission meeting as a board member was on June 5, 1979, when it was known as the zoning committee and when Ken Fox was the supervisor. Since that time, he says, Fitzgerald hasn’t missed a meeting, to the best of his knowledge.

“He’s (Don) a steady-Eddy,” Semenick said. “He’s an extremely reliable person… never misses a meeting.

He’s a great reader too. Anytime you needed something reviewed, he’d take a look at it and bring back notes on it. They broke the mold for guys like him.”

Semenick says Fitzgerald was instrumental in constructing the first Master Plan for the township in the early 1980’s, developing the Iosco quarry and writing the parks and recreation plan, which is necessary to be eligible to receive grant funding.

“We (township) were happy to have him serve us so well for the past 30 years,” Semenick said. He added, at Fitzgerald’s last planning commission meeting, the board passed a resolution in his honor.

Fitzgerald, 81, says he’s lived most of his life in the Turner area and worked as a mail carrier for 25 years.

“I had a 93-mile route that I ran six days a week,” Fitzgerald said. “I enjoyed talking to people on the route… a lot of good people.”

He says in the older days of mail delivery, residents didn’t travel as much and the world wasn’t as fast-paced as it is today.

“People [used to] look forward to seeing the mail carrier,” the 1946 Arenac Eastern graduate said. “Before there was so much traveling, people would come out to chat and get the newspaper… that’s how you got the news everyday… from the mailman.”

One mail-route story he remembers vividly is about an older lady on his route, and the surprise he got when he went into her house one day.

“One day I went in, I found out she fell and broke her leg,” he said. “So I stayed with her until her son came.”

Prior to his postal work, Fitzgerald was enlisted in the Marines from 1946-49, where he was stationed in Puerto Rico and other areas in the Caribbean.

He also says he worked as a mechanic in Flint and in real estate with the Stanley brothers — Pete and Dennis.

When Fitzgerald wasn’t working, he says he used to enjoy hunting, until a knee surgery put a halt to that, and traveling with his wife to some of the Southern states.

Now, Fitzgerald says he likes to spend his free time using modern technology.

“I like to watch western movies and [I like] e-mailing friends and staying up on information on the Internet,” he said. “I like to go on Google and look for random things.”

Fitzgerald, who has five children, three living in the area, says he liked to serve on the planning commission because he enjoyed the people he worked with and making decisions regarding the township’s direction. He says there are a few differences in the job today from when he first began.

“Things change and you have to keep updating,” he said. “You have to make plans for communication towers and I suppose soon it’ll be wind generation too.”

He added it was very surprising and a great feeling to be honored with a resolution by the people he’s served with on the planning commission.

Now that he’s fully retired, Fitzgerald says he’s just taking it one day at a time and enjoys going to “coffee” at Dunleavy’s in AuGres.

“We have quite a group we go there with,” he says.

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