Helen Theresa Higgins Fitzgerald of Springs, a community activist and founding member of the East End Peace and Justice group, died on March 14. She was 82.
“She had a large heart, a terrific laugh, and was a lot of fun,” said Michael O’Neill of Sag Harbor, a friend and fellow activist who described himself as her sidekick.
One of Ms. Fitzgerald’s passions was affordable housing, and she fought for this option on the East End by serving on the East Hampton Housing Authority, the board of directors of Windmill Village Houses, and the Whalebone Village Housing Authority.
Ms. Fitzgerald was also the Suffolk County ombudsman for nursing home residents, a past president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and a member of the Committee for Peace in Palestine and Israel.
She was an accomplished writer, and frequently contributed letters to The Star in support of the causes she cared about. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of New Rochelle, and later a Master of Arts from the State University at Stony Brook.
A resident of Springs since 1995, Ms. Fitzgerald worked for two and a half years, going door to door with petitions, to fight for free access to the East Hampton Library for Springs residents.
Born to Peter and Helen Higgins in Brooklyn on April 3, 1929, Ms. Fitzgerald attended school in the Bronx, and later lived in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Ms. Fitzgerald was the divorced mother of eight children, and lived for more than 40 years in Massapequa Park, where she worked as a sales executive for Pitney Bowes.
Although she taught Catholic theology at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville early on, she later wrote letters to the Vatican about its policies regarding women and, with no response, wrote a personal letter to the pope resigning from the religion, Mr. O’Neill said.
Ms. Fitzgerald had a passion for Irish music, was a pianist, and knew all the words from the Great American Songbook, Mr. O’Neill said. She was also an accomplished sailor, and she used to breeze along the coast from City Island, once making it all the way to Three Mile Harbor. She also enjoyed her travels, which included trips to China, Europe, Cuba, and Ireland.
Ms. Fitzgerald had seven surviving children, Peter Fitzgerald of East Hampton, David Fitzgerald of Amityville, Thomas Fitzgerald of Massapequa Park, Raymond Fitzgerald of Westchester, Megan Fitzgerald of Copiague, Sheila Taylor of Durham, N.C., and Brian Fitzgerald of Melbourne Beach, Fla. She also had 11 grandchildren. Another son, William Joseph, died before her, as did her brothers, Joseph and Peter Higgins.
A service was held on Monday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, of which she was a member, with burial following at the St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.
Donations in Ms. Fitzgerald’s memory have been suggested to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.