Patricia Fitzgerald, coordinator of ActionAIDS’ Philadelphia Linkage Program, died Dec. 2 of complications from pneumonia and cancer. She was 64.
Fitzgerald grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and began working at ActionAIDS 12 years ago as a prison case manager for the Philadelphia Linkage Program, which provides comprehensive HIV/AIDS services to men and women during and after incarceration. Fitzgerald worked her way up and became coordinator of the program after it began to grow — something ActionAIDS executive director Kevin Burns attributed largely to Fitzgerald’s work. Fitzgerald held associate’s degrees in both alcohol and drug-abuse counseling and applied science from Community College of Philadelphia. She graduated with both degrees in 1996 and then transferred to Temple University the following year to pursue a degree in social work. Burns said that although she didn’t complete her coursework at Temple, Fitzgerald had the heart and mind of a social worker. “Pat was passionate about making sure people with AIDS, and particularly people who she served in the prison program, were treated with respect and had access to all the things they needed,” Burns said. “She had the ability to really connect with clients. She met face-to-face with every one of the clients assigned to the team. It was extraordinary that someone would go above and beyond like that.” Burns said he knew Fitzgerald before she started her work at the organization and was always impressed by her down-to-earth personality. “She was very personable and friendly. She was a ‘Kensington, down-home’ kind of gal, very accessible,” he said. ActionAIDS deputy executive director Beth Hagan encouraged Fitzgerald to initially apply for the organization. “I knew her as a friend before she worked at ActionAIDS. I thought she would be a perfect fit,” Hagan said. “She was loving but tough and able to set limits but in a caring way. She would look under every rock and stone for an answer to something. She really went the extra mile.” Outside of work, Fitzgerald was an avid Eagles fan and frequented the Jersey Shore in the summer. She also had a strong relationship with her daughter, Emma, which Burns said she cherished deeply. “She lived to be with Emma. Emma was her heart. When she would talk about Emma, her whole face would light up,” he said. Burns said the staff at ActionAIDS took the news of Fitzgerald’s passing hard. “She was easy to get along with. She was easy to work with and be around,” Burns said. “It is a huge loss for ActionAIDS. We will miss her dearly.” A memorial service was held Dec. 9 at St. Anne Catholic Church in Kensington. Fitzgerald is survived by her daughter Emma, sister Diane Davies, a brother and several nieces and nephews.