The death of Berkshire entrepreneur and philanthropist Jane Fitzpatrick marks the end of an era, the likes of which will not be seen again soon. The accomplishments of that era, however, will live on and resonate for many decades to come.
Jane Fitzpatrick, who died Saturday at the age of 89, and her husband John, who died in July 2011, came to the Berkshires in 1958 and went on to change Berkshire history for the better in so many ways. Country Curtains, the small business they founded, was a major success, and the warehouse and distribution center in Lee and related businesses made it an employer of hundreds of Berkshire residents. Ten years after their arrival in the Berkshires they purchased the declining Red Lion Inn on Stockbridge's Main Street, likely saving it from the wrecking ball and turning it into a Berkshire landmark. Nancy Fitzpatrick, the daughter of John and Jane, owns it today.
These accomplishments are impressive enough, but then there are the immense contributions to the cultural scene so critical to the Berkshire economy. A founding member and lead donor to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Jane Fitzpatrick was instrumental in the opening of both the first museum downtown and the second larger museum in the Glendale section. A life trustee with Tanglewood and the BSO, she played a key role in the planning and construction of Ozawa Hall. Board chair of the Berkshire Theatre Festival for 22 years, Mrs. Fitzpatrick began the "Save the Playhouse" campaign in 1975 that saved the BTF. Jane and John were benefactors for a wide variety of other organizations dotted around the Berkshires.
Those who knew Jane Fitzpatrick remember her for her elegance and her friendly nature, and also for the drive and determination it took to accomplish so much in the worlds of business and the arts, where little comes easily. Her unique combination of gifts, combined with those of her husband, enabled the Fitzpatricks to create a legacy that lives on in the buildings they saved and built, the jobs they provided, the cultural gems they cherished and boosted, and the people they touched.