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David Fitzsimmons

Note: I wrote this little tribute to Fitz in the fall of 2011. Recently when my website went fubar, it was dropped from the database by a company that cost me lots of misery and money, HostGator. In any event, this piece is as I wrote it. There is an album of Fitz photos that you will find here.

David Fitzsimmons has raised millions for Tucson’s charities for a quarter century. He has not given money, but his time and talent. He has been the provocative and entertaining master of ceremonies at thousands of charity-raising event, from chicken dinners to overflowing   auditoriums Fitz is there — thick black drawing pen in hand, big pad of paper and easel at his side and a joke at the ready.

Unless he is already booked, he will not say no. Fitz will stand and amuse. For free. Any time as long as the cause is noble, the audience tomato-free and there are a few big names in attendance that can besmirch, belittle, beguile and charm.

He has been the evening’s entertainment since he returned to Tucson in 1986 and began his career as the editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Daily Star. He was born in Merced, but was but a few months when his parents brought him. He went to Rincon High School and then to the University of Arizona where he majored in several subjects, but mostly he was cartoonist for the Wildcat. He graduated and found a job as an artist for the Oklahoman of Oklahoma City.

He migrated east, finding gainful employment as an artist with the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, which was then piloted by a mutual friend, William G. Connolly.  Bill was previously with The New York Times. Eventually, he returned to the Gray Lady as an editor and co-wrote the paper’s style manual.

After his stint with that paper, Fitz landed his first full-time cartoonist job with the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. His boss at that paper was the late Tony Snow who went on to become press spokesman for George W. Bush. He died of colon cancer in 2008 at the age of 53.

I interviewed Fitz and his daughter sometime in 1985 in the coffee shop of the Sheraton Hotel in Reston, Virginia. She was active, climbing steps. He said he was anxious to get back to Tucson.

Since then, Fitz has been a part of what critics still call the “Red Star,” his cartoons poking fun at, praising, satirizing and annoying. That is the chief reason, I believe, he has never been selected as Tucson’s man of the year. When I was at the Star, we waged a serious campaign to make it so. Alas, we were not successful.

But Fitz nonetheless charges onward, pen in hand, masterfully conducting the ceremony and raising the money — battling breast cancer (he is a cancer survivor), promoting books or paying tribute to long-time heroes such as Big Jim Griffith. He has given many times over his fair share to the community.

 

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