Tim Fitzgerald was a humble man perfectly comfortable being in the background, but he stood at the center of Irish culture in the Twin Cities.
Though he serenaded customers at Kieran's Irish Pub in Minneapolis with song and awed them when he played his bagpipes, "Fitz," as he was known, spent most of his time investing in local Irish musicians and bands and giving them a place to play. He had booked acts at Kieran's for the past 15 years and lined up entertainment for the Irish Fair of Minnesota.
"My two bands probably would not exist if it weren't for him," said Terry Walsh of the Belfast Cowboys and St. Dominic's Trio. "He put us to work and came through with gigs."
Fitzgerald, 47, of St. Paul, died March 3 in his sleep.
After graduating from Minneapolis Southwest High School, Fitzgerald quickly became a key part of Irish-American culture in St. Paul. At Christmas he donned a green Santa suit and blew his bagpipes outside Irish on Grand, and he performed at weddings, funerals and other special events, such as St. Patrick's Day. He was on the board of the Irish Fair of Minnesota for nine years and helped the annual summer festival grow from a small fête to one that now attracts about 100,000 people and top musicians to Harriet Island in St. Paul.
"He was the kingpin," said longtime friend John Dingley, who hired Fitzgerald in the mid-1990s to coordinate music at the former Irish Well, a pub Dingley ran on University Avenue.
Fitzgerald was a member of the Emerald Society and of the Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band. He also was a friend of many bands and booked them at places such as the Liffy, the Half Time Rec and other Irish outlets.
"He was an integral part of everything Irish that took place in this community," said Kieran Folliard, owner of Kieran's Irish Pub, which is moving to its new space on Block E later this month.
Fitzgerald's talents went far beyond music. He was computer-savvy, an excellent photographer and website designer, and a skilled craftsman and artist, friends said.
He rarely turned down anybody who asked for a favor. On the day before he died, he used his truck and trailer to help move furniture to the new Kieran's, helped with another construction project, played his bagpipes and sang at a wake, then returned to the new Kieran's to check that the newly sealed floor would pass inspection, Dingley said.
Fitzgerald is survived by his father, Gerald, of Eagan; his mother, Gretchen Fitzgerald, of Hopkins; a sister, Kathleen Fitzgerald, of Hopkins, and a brother, Richard, of Bloomington.
A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Thomson-Dougherty Mansion, 2535 Park Av. S., Minneapolis. A gathering of friends and family will begin at 3 p.m. A celebration of his life will be held after the service at Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 2nd Av. S., Minneapolis.