Sailing to Byzantium -

Paul Michael Fitzsimmons, 87 — (1923-2010)

My uncle Paul Michael Fitzsimmons, writer, passed away on July 11, 2010 at the Bath Veteran’s Administration Hospital, where he received excellent care in his last year of life. He was the person who inspired me to become a writer — an occupation I’d never conceived of until hearing him tell of his life. The obituary that follows was written by his children, my beloved cousins.

Paul was born in Boston on June 12, 1923. He was the son of Edward and Julia (Coveney) Fitzsimmons and brother of Marie McFadden, Fred (Audrey) Fitzsimmons, Celestine Gookin, Joan Stinson (deceased) and Richard Fitzsimmons (deceased).

Paul was a veteran of World War II, serving in the Merchant Marine in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean as second mate and navigator on the U.S. Rum River. He was licensed to sail any ship, any tonnage, on any ocean. One of his most stirring memories was meeting up with his brother Freddie in the midst of the war on the island of Guam, where Freddie was serving with the United States Marine Corps. Their mother, Julia, wept with joy to receive word that her sons had such a reunion in the midst of such times.

Uncle Paul at age 87 with birthday cake and three grandchildren: Sophie, Rowan, and Colin. (Photo by Marie Fitzsimmons Peters)

Paul was a passionate defender of the Constitution and a devoted patriot of the principles of democracy. Until his dying day, he maintained an impassioned plea to the nation to peacefully rebel against the corporate takeover of our liberties. His People’s Manifesto was last published in the Watkins Review in 2008.

Paul is the father of Robert (Mindy) Fitzsimmons, John Fitzsimmons (deceased), Paula Fitzsimmons (Philip Davis), Marie Fitzsimmons (Kirk Peters), and Daniel Fitzsimmons (Dorothy Elizabeth). He is the grandfather of Dr. Coveney Fitzsimmons (Gabriel Gomez), Liam Fitzsimmons, Jores Peters, Jared Peters, Sophie Fitzsimmons Peters, Hilary Davis, Colin Davis, Connor Fitzsimmons, Rowan Elizabeth, and William Fitzsimmons. He is the great grandfather of Zade Ixchel.

Paul began his writing career in New York City, where his early literary successes included Family of Five (1956), End of the Road (1957), By the Light of the Moon (1957) Green Goods and Gold (1959), A Ring is a Precious Thing (1957), The Oracle Machine and Mr. Kessler (1957) and The Way of a Dog (1957). Paul was commissioned by Beacon Press to write the Howard Hughes story and to bring his family to Hollywood to write screenplays. Instead, the family moved to Burdett to an old farmhouse with 100 acres and began their lives in upstate New York.

During that time, Paul authored “Confessions of a Year Round Hunter” for True Magazine, scripts for plays, eloquent poetry, and impassioned political articles. He acted in local theatre with the Burdett Players, worked to bring about the Citizen’s Party, demonstrated against the closing of Sampson State Hospital, and wrote prolifically. After the Flood of ’72, Paul wrote a sweeping ode of the Chemung River Flood. His Christmas Dream, written for his daughter Paula, was loved by Katharine Hepburn, who was touched by the magic of Paul’s writing. Paul resided for many years in Front Royal, Virginia, where he wrote guest editorials for The Washington Post and The Riverton Press. In 1982, at age 59, Paul fulfilled a lifetime dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, 2,175 miles from Springer, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. His story was published in the Appalachian Hiker. In 2000, Paul made a trip to Scotland to see his beloved friend and fellow AT hiker, war correspondent Jack Willis. The two writers had a special bond borne from their restless natures and adventurous souls.

Paul recently celebrated his 87th birthday at the music recital of his grandson Colin, enjoyed a beer at the Stone Cat Café, and ate homemade cake prepared by his son-in-law Kirk. More than anything, Paul was most proud of his children and expressed enormous gratitude to their mother. Paul died having held each of his four children on the last day of his life.

As Paul lived by the pen, your remembrances may be sent to C/O Fitzsimmons Family, 5550 Peach Orchard Point, Hector, New York 14841. Perhaps you would like to buy a lottery ticket, make a contribution to the Watkins Glen Library to offset his many late charges, or hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail in his memory. Or simply start a peaceful revolution. As Paul would say: “Good Deal.”

The family will receive friends at the Stone Cat Café near Hector, New York on Saturday, July 17th from 2-4 p.m.

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees.
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The Salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

- William Butler Yeats

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One Response to Sailing to Byzantium -

  1. Pete says:

    I hadn’t known his name or his work, but I’m glad to know now of his life, his story, his impact on you. Thank you.

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