Mourners pack church for Fitzpatrick funeral

Christ Episcopal Church overflowed this afternoon as mourners gathered to celebrate the life of U.S. District Court Judge Duross Fitzpatrick.

Seats allotted for judges, lawyers, friends and family were filled long before the funeral began at 1 p.m. and dozens of mourners were filed into an overflow room in the downtown Macon church that had a live video feed of the service.

Fitzpatrick, 73, died Sunday night at his home in Twiggs County after suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurological disease that causes disability by impairing movement, balance, vision, speech and swallowing.

Reminiscing of Fridays spent listening to Fitzpatrick's stories and tagging along as the judge rode a high-powered golf cart on his farm in Tarversville, the Rev. J. Wesley Smith said the judge was more than a church member. He was a friend.

"Duross was a guy's guy," Smith said, telling attendees about the judge's interest in history and love of the land. "You could enjoy being around him."

He described the judge as a giving man who had compassion for people, both in and out of the courtroom.

"With Duross there were no strings attached when he gave of himself," Smith said. "He did it for the love of God."

Even when his illness robbed him of the ability to walk, Smith said Fitzpatrick was a faithful church member. He attended weekly and insisted upon walking the aisle to the alter to take communion.

He never complained and never became bitter, Smith said.

"He believed that death did not end life," Smith said.

Fitzpatrick was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan on Dec. 31, 1985. He became chief judge in 1995 and remained in that position until taking senior judge status in February 2001.

Burial followed the funeral in the Jeffersonville City Cemetery with military honors. Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife, Beverly, two children and two grandchildren.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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