Winifred Merrill FitzGerald Dies at 93

Winifred (Freddie) Merrill FitzGerald of 349A Tonset Road, Orleans, Mass., died on Sunday, Sept. 15. She was 93 years old.

Freddie was the widow of the late Chester (Chet) F. FitzGerald, formerly of Christiansted, St. Croix, V.I., and the daughter of the late Hamilton and Phyllis Merrill of Orleans, and formerly of Bridgeport, Conn.

She was predeceased by her eldest granddaughter, Merrill McKenzie Hannis of Purcellville, Va., earlier this year.

She is survived by four daughters: Elizabeth (Betsy) McKenzie of Hamilton, Va., Dr. Doris (Dodie) Cowan of Winter Haven, Fla., Winifred (Wendy) Reveri of Orleans and Dr. Deborah (Debbie) Beal of Orleans; six grandchildren: Sarah McKenzie of Boulder, Col., Craig Cowan of Orlando, Fla,, Joshua Cowan of Rocklin, Calif., Jessica Reveri and Matthew Reveri, both of New York, N.Y., and Timothy Reveri of Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Freddie is also survived by eight great-grandchildren as well as several nieces and nephews. She was beloved by friends and family — each person in her orbit experienced a unique relationship with her.

Freddie was born in Newark, N.J. She was educated through tenth grade in the Fairfield, Conn. public schools and graduated from Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y. and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and pursued an advanced degree at Fairfield University. Her first marriage to the late David Wheeler Calhoun of Bath, Maine, formerly of Easton, Conn., ended in divorce in 1978. She married Chet in 1979.

Freddie taught a class for physically handicapped students for two years in Warminster, Penn.; she was a guidance counselor and college consultant at Staples High School in Westport, Conn., from 1964 to 1982. She served as assistant principal of St. Joseph High School in Frederiksted, USVI, from 1982 until 1990, when she and Chet moved to Orleans. Freddie made her home with her mother after Chet’s death in July of 1990.

One of her continuing interests was affordable housing. She was a member of the Orleans Housing Task Force (later named the Affordable Housing Committee) from February 1992 until June 2014. During that time, the committee accomplished the completion of Opa’s Way, Hinckley Place and Bevan’s Way in addition to several smaller projects. Freddie served as the Orleans representative to the HOME consortium from 1993 to 2010. In 1996, she was a member of the committee that developed Canal House, and in 1998, she was appointed to the Citizens Advisory Council of Canal House.

From 1996 on, she served as a director of the Interfaith Council for the Homeless, now known as Homeless Prevention Council. She was vice-president from 2005 to 2019, supporting the organization as it grew, and she served clients across the Lower and Outer Cape.

In Orleans, Freddie was active in the Lower Cape Outreach Council for many years, serving as treasurer for six years and president from 2000 to 2002. After her tenure as president, she continued to serve as an advocate and for several years as a board member. In May of 2014, her work was recognized at a dinner in her honor.

In addition, she was a vice-president of the Educational Trust of the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area and served two terms as first vice-president of the League. Freddie was also a member of the Advisory Board of the Lower/Outer Cape Community Coalition and became treasurer of the Community Coalition of Cape Cod.

A member of the Church of the Holy Spirit, she served as a member of the Vestry, a Lay Reader and a co-chair of the Christian Action Committee, and she was chair of the East Orleans Shepherd Group from 1996-1997. She was a member of the Orleans Woman’s Club and former chair of the scholarship committee. She served for four years as a volunteer for the Council of Churches Service Center.

In September, 2012, she was selected by the Nauset Rotary Club to receive the Community Volunteer Award.

In May of 1991, Freddie was the recipient of a very successful liver transplant. Without it, she would have been unable to enjoy her growing family and to contribute to the community. She was also an avid traveler, visiting Turkey, Egypt, China, Croatia, Peru, Alaska, India, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba.

In February of 2014, after her third hip replacement, her daughter, Deborah Beal, came to live with her, retiring early from her job with the New York State Education Department to care for her mother. “It was my honor and privilege,” says Debbie.

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m., on Oct. 19 at the Federated Church in Orleans, Mass.

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