Robert “Bob” Fitzharris was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1938 to first-generation Americans, born of Irish immigrant parents. Bob’s grandparents came to the United States from Ireland in search of a better life and to escape the poverty of Ireland at the turn of the century.
The second oldest of 10 children, all lived together on Parkside Avenue in Chicago in a “two-flat” apartment, with his maternal grandparents living upstairs. Ultimately, as more siblings came along, 13 members of the Fitzharris family would live in a total of five bedrooms in the small, red-brick building. He grew up and went to school on the West-Side of Chicago, located as far from Lake Michigan as you could get, participated in sports and especially loved football and baseball.
He graduated from St. Ignatius High School and entered John Carroll University, located in Ohio, in the fall of 1956. In early 1957, he met the “true love of his life”, Patricia Zobel. After they both graduated from college, the two were married in September of 1960 in Chicago. Shortly after their marriage, Bob joined the Army as an officer and was stationed at Fort Eustis, in Newport News, Virginia, where he and his wife resided until his deployment overseas. Bob and his wife Pat had three children: Mary, Kyle and Shannon - he loved his children very much and was always extremely proud of each of them.
Bob remained in the Army for the next few years until he left military service to return to Chicago, Illinois. He began working with General Motors and was soon transferred with GM to Kansas City in 1966. Bob and his family lived in both Salina and Overland Park, Kansas for several years prior to his further advancement with GM and relocating to Omaha, Nebraska in 1977.
Years later, in 1981, Bob (happily) received another promotion, this time to the golden state of California, leaving behind the cold, often miserable and blustery Midwest. For almost twenty-five years Bob had remained a successful, award-worthy executive with General Motors, in the Pontiac Division until his retirement. But he wasn’t finished with his career yet. He joined J.D. Power And Associates as “Director of Consulting and Training Services”. He received several awards throughout his tenure there, was quoted in countless articles (Money Magazine, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and many more), received notable accommodations and was even interviewed on NBC, on the Today Show discussing the concept of “Auto Malls” in December of 1995.
As a volunteer for several worthy causes and fundraisers throughout Bob’s life, he is probably best known for his passionate 30-year commitment to the charitable organization “Manna.” In 1986, Bob became the President of Manna, the largest food bank in the Conejo Valley of Los Angeles, that believes “no individual should ever go hungry.” Manna, is a non-denominational organization that provides food, water, clothing as well as other necessities to needy families from Calabasas and throughout the Conejo Valley. Bob was recognized often for his outstanding service, he profoundly believed in their mission to eliminate hunger and he was particularly proud to be a member of Manna for so many wonderful years.
In 2006, Bob moved to Coronado, California to be close to his eldest daughter, who by then, had lived in and loved the city for almost 10 years. His son Kyle, daughter Shannon and his granddaughter Aine, also began to come to visit him in Coronado often. Immediately, Bob began meeting people in his new community and became a leader. He joined the Coronado Senior Center, met Mary Thom and Jackie Walters, two of his dearest friends as well as many other close friends there and he soon ran for President, voted in (by a landslide). Bob remained President for three consecutive years and also played pinochle with this delightful group of seniors for 15 years!
Bob was also very active in the Coronado Aquatics where he was nicknamed “Bad Boy Bob” for his sometimes seemingly endless “bawdy” commentary, laughed at by all. He was an extremely avid reader and started a spirited Book Club that has continued for years and lives on in his memory. He purchased hundreds (literally) of books from our annual Book Fair and then donated countless books back to the Coronado Library.
Whenever possible, which was almost always, Bob also participated in many local activities, developing countless deep, meaningful, friendships within the community, with his daughter, Mary and with many of her closest cohorts throughout Coronado and San Diego. For the last 16 years of his life, the multitude of these close friends soon thought of Bob like a father. He started our beloved “Poker and Potluck Night” that ranged from a dozen to more than two dozen participants, meeting every other Thursday for years. We all celebrated birthdays, Concerts in the Park, parades, holidays, and countless other events together. A few years ago, he even walked one of his closest friends down the aisle, giving her away at her wedding, as her own father had passed away. His extensive and fabulous collection of Eisenburg vintage jewelry outfitted at least 14 of the women that attended the romantic event, all dripping in exquisite, sparkling treasures from the early 1940s.
Bob passed away on June 12, 2022 from complications of surgery to remove a large tumor that was found when he was hospitalized in mid-May for pneumonia. He touched many, many lives and he will be forever loved and forever missed by his family, friends and everyone that knew him!
For information regarding the “Celebration of Life for Bob” please contact his daughter, Mary Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org or text 619-261-6061.
VOL. 112, NO. 35 - Aug. 31, 2022