Ramapo High School Principal Jean E. Fields is hearing something from students past and present that she already knew — that Peter Fitzpatrick had a tremendous impact upon them.
Fitzpatrick, a teacher and dean of students, was killed in a motorcycle accident on Veterans Memorial Drive in Pearl River Monday.
"It's just rough on everybody," Fields said. "People are walking around like zombies here. Everybody is on their best behavior for Fitz. The kids are dropping things off at various places in the school. The students say they want to be there for his family because he was always there for us.
"What is strange is that at age 44, he affected so many people's lives. Some people live to be 90 and don't touch so many others," Fields said.
Fitzpatrick was a 1985 graduate of Suffern High School. He lived in Pearl River with his wife, Teresa, and two children, ages 8 and 6. Pearl River Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Auriemma spoke about Fitzpatrick at the district's board of education meeting Tuesday.
"I’m sure we all know by this time of the tragic loss of one of our parents, Mr. Fitzpatrick, in that tragic motorcycle accident on Veterans," Auriemma said. "He leaves behind his wife and two young children at Franklin Avenue (Elementary), a first- and second-grader. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
"He talked a lot about his family and how much he loved them," Fields said. "He was so proud of his children."
Fitzpatrick had been a teacher at Ramapo for 18 years. He taught AP Physics and was also a dean of students. Fields said that grief counselors have been available at the school because of the loss.
"He was the consummate professional, always prepared," Fields said. "Students who had him many years ago would make sure younger siblings would have him when they got to their senior year. All of his students think so highly of him. They do well because they don’t want ot disappoint them. He always expected the best of his kids, not just academically, but in the choices they made, their honesty and integrity, because that's who he was."
As a dean of students, Fitzpatrick often dealt with disciplinary matters.
"He usually dealt with students who make poor choices," Fields said. "I've had so many kids come in today and say how much he helped them. There is one girl who is in trouble all the time. She came in and said, 'I want an assembly where students can stand up and say how much he helped them.' The last thing he said to her was, 'I'll always be there to help you work things out."
Students have asked about holding an assembly and taping it so they can give the tape to Fitzpatrick's family. Fields said the school is also considering creating a scholarship in his name. There may be a memorial group at the Ramapo High School Prom, which is being held May 26 at the Pearl River Hilton. The accident was in front of the entrance to the Hilton.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Assumma-Shankey Funeral Home in Pearl River. The visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at the St. Margaret School auditorium in Pearl River. The Mass of Christian burial will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Margaret's Church in Pearl River.