MATUNUCK – For over 50 years, Fran Fitzpatrick has served the community of Matunuck through volunteer efforts, fundraising and participating in local community associations. Last week, in honor of Fitzpatrick’s 90th birthday, the community returned the favor with a surprise brigade of vehicles equipped with well wishes for the unofficial “Mayor of Matunuck.”
“It was unbelievable,” he said of the event. “I was really surprised. I couldn’t believe it.”
On June 2, a parade of about 60 cars, led by two engines from the Union Fire District, Matunuck Station, passed by Fitzpatrick’s home on Blackberry Hill Drive. Passengers, leaning out of windows, wished Fitzpatrick well, shouted cries of “happy birthday” and waved. Neighbors decorated their lawns with messages wishing Fitzpatrick a happy birthday, and people tied balloons to their vehicles as they drove past. Due to health and safety concerns around COVID-19, a traditional birthday party was not possible.
Fitzpatrick first visited Matunuck with his girlfriend, now wife, Catherine, whose parents lived in the area, in the 1940s.
“I started going with her,” he said. “We would stay with her mother and father during the summertime, and then go back to my parents’ house in Saunderstown. We would rotate around.”
In November of 1934, the Matunuck Improvement Association was created and offered its members services such as routine garbage pick up. Initially without a base of operations, the organization found a home the following year when the Matunuck Park Chapel burned down and the community house was sold to the Matunuck Improvement Association and subsequently moved to Community Drive. There, the building hosted rainy-day activities for schoolchildren in the summer, as well as organized field days. A document on the history of the organization notes that “there were many spaghetti dinners, served on china.”
In 1964, the organization again moved to Matunuck Beach Road and in 1974, the Matunuck Improvement Association changed its name to the Matunuck Community Association.
Fitzpatrick joined the organization’s board of directors in the 1960s, a position he still holds today. Initially brought on as a fundraiser, Fitzpatrick has served as president and treasurer of the organization.
“So I served on the board for so many years it was unbelievable,” Fitzpatrick said. “’Repairman,’ whatever you want to call me. I did everything there.”
“There wasn’t many young people left here back then,” he continued. “And they asked me to serve, so I did. It was really that simple. And I never thought I’d live this long.”
When asked what he loved most about the Matunuck area, Fitzpatrick does not pause, and gives an immediate answer.
“The people,” he said. “You know, they’re all so wonderful.”
Fitzpatrick currently lives with his wife on Blackberry Hill Drive. The Matunuck Community Association is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. Membership to the organization, as of 2018, is approximately 199 families.