BUCKS COUNTY >> Former U.S. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who rose up through the ranks from Middletown Township Supervisor to Bucks County Commissioner and eventually to U.S. Congress, passed away Monday morning, Jan. 6 at the age of 56 leaving a lasting legacy of service and accomplishments.
His family released the news Monday morning in a short statement, in which they asked for privacy as they mourn their loss. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Fitzpatrick, an attorney who grew up in Middletown Township and graduated from Bishop Egan High School, died peacefully surrounded by family, after a long and arduous battle with melanoma.
Mike served as a township supervisor in Middletown Township before being appointed county commissioner in 1995 to fill the unexpired term of Mark Schweiker, who had resigned to become Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania.
At the county level, he fought to preserve the county's endangered open space and farms, supporting efforts to purchase easement rights to save Bucks County's agricultural heritage.
Fitzpatrick served as a commissioner until winning election to the U.S. Congress in 2004. He represented the 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C., from 2005 to 2007 and again from 2011 to 2017.
In Congress, he fought exhaustively to bring a National Cemetery to Upper Makefield, worked on passage of Right to Try legislation, secured funding for new boat docks in Bristol Borough, stood up for the rights of victims who were injured by faulty medical devices, chaired a task force to investigate terrorism financing along with numerous other accomplishments.
"Mike devoted his entire life to his family, his friends, and to the people of Bucks County," said Patricia K. Poprik, Chair of the Bucks County GOP Committee. "For ten years as County Commissioner, and eight years in Congress, Mike exemplified public service, and will forever be a model towards which all those who serve in government will strive."
Most importantly, said Poprik, Mike was a loving husband to his wife, Kathy, a caring father to his children and grandchildren, and a loyal friend to so many of us. "Mike's warm personality had the unique quality of making total strangers feel like longtime friends, and friends feel like family," she said.
"His passing is truly a loss not just for those who knew him well, but also for our entire Bucks County community," said Poprik. "We know that you share our thoughts and prayers for his family in this difficult time."
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark S. Schweiker said of his friend and political colleague, “Bucks County and Pennsylvania has lost a fine public servant.
"Mike Fitzpatrick worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those he served," said Schweiker. "As Bucks County Commissioner, and later in Congress, we could always count on Mike to fight for his fellow citizens. More than anything, I will remember him as my friend for over 40 years, and I will miss him. Kathy and I will hold his wife, Kathleen, their children and family in our prayers.”
Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub met Fitzpatrick when he was a young assistant district attorney and Fitzpatrick was a newly-elected Bucks County Commissioner.
Through many years and iterations of government, Weintraub said Fitzpatrick "was always a very acceptable, fair man and a person who cared about his constituency. He was Bucks County through and through.”
Weintraub said Mike will be remembered “as a person who stood for the people regardless of party, regardless of political affiliation. So many people knew him and that’s because he provided such great public service regardless of who you were or what you needed.
"He was a shining light for Bucks County. He was the best of Bucks County in so many ways," Weintraub continued. "We are really going to miss him. Hopefully we can follow his lead and make him proud as he looks down."
State Senator Robert "Tommy" Tomlinson first met Mike in 1990 not long after Mike had graduated from college.
“What a great public servant. What a great human being. He was very conscientious in all his duties. You couldn’t have met a nicer guy and a very capable man. My heart is so sad,” said Tomlinson.
But Mike was more than just a public servant, a county commissioner, a Congressman, said Tomlinson. “He was a friend. I’m so sad today. I’m going to miss him as a friend and we’re all going to miss him as a great public servant.
“Once you met Mike he knew you right away. He had such a personal connection to people. Bucks County will remember him as a great public servant, a great human being and a wonderful family man.”
The Republican Party of Pennsylvania joined in the condolences and tributes, issuing a statement offering its heartfelt condolences to the family of the former Congressman. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Kathleen, their six children, his brother Brian, and greater Bucks County Community," they said.
“Congressman Fitzpatrick was both a loyal friend, valued law partner, and a trusted political adviser,” said RPP Chairman Lawrence Tabas. “He will be missed sorely by all who knew him.”
Congressman Fitzpatrick was a public servant whose roots ran deep in the community and stood firm to his word. After a nearly 10 year tenure as a Bucks County Commissioner, Mike successfully ran for US Congress in 2004.
"Mike Fitzpatrick always remained steadfast in his convictions," said Tabas. "When Congressman Fitzpatrick's first re-election campaign ended in defeat, he was undeterred from public service. Mike stayed involved in Bucks County politics and ran again for Congress in 2010. Mike’s victory in 2010 came with a promise to his constituents that he would only serve three terms.
"True to his word, in 2016 Congressman Fitzpatrick retired, leaving a lasting legacy of service in Congress," said Tabas. "From standing up for the rights of victims who were injured by faulty medical devices, to Chairing the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, Mike always fought to keep families safe."
Rarely were there community events, party gatherings, Eagle Scout ceremonies or local meetings where Mike was not present.
"His commitment to his district and his constituents was unparalleled and will remain the model to congressmen for many years. In addition to his dutiful public service," said Tabas,
Mike was also an Eagle Scout who was awarded the prestigious Silver Beaver Award for his lifetime of service to the Boy Scouts of America. Mike was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis Club, and Ancient Order of Hibernians.
"We join his family and friends in remembering Mike Fitzpatrick for his devotion to his country and service to his community," said Tabas.
The condolences also reached across the political aisle.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey said Congressman Fitzpatrick served the Commonwealth "with distinction, demonstrating countless times his willingness to reach across the aisle and put people before politics. I am sending my deepest condolences to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and the entire Fitzpatrick family.”
Bucks County Democratic state lawmakers also came together today to mourn the loss of their colleague.
In his roles as Bucks County commissioner, township supervisor and U.S. representative, Fitzpatrick often worked across the aisle on important initiatives and built long-lasting friendships with many Democratic legislators.
“Mike was a great guy to work with — incredibly smart, knowledgeable about local and state issues. He was a man of grace and honor. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Fitzpatrick family,” said State Rep. Tina Davis.
State Rep. John Galloway, D-140, added, “I’ve known Mike for 35 years. He was a great elected official and a better person. From the Galloway clan to the Fitzpatrick’s, I would like to say how very sorry we are to hear of Mike’s passing.”
State Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-143, said, “Mike served his community, the commonwealth and his country with dedication and valor. He left a big footprint in Bucks County.”
And State Rep. Perry Warren, D-31, said, “As congressman, Bucks County commissioner, township supervisor and private citizen, Mike Fitzpatrick set the standard for participation and activity in the community. He was everywhere – the face of the community he represented. My family and I are sorry for his loss and offer our condolences to his brother, Brian and his entire family."