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Longtime CPA retires after 53 years (w/ video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Feb. 21, 2014 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:21 p.m.

Jack Fitzgerald shakes hands with Ellis Smith, 84, of Meyersville, at Fitzgerald's retirement  party in the Bumgardner, Morrison & Co. offices in Victoria. "I've known Jack for umpteenth hundred years.  We were friends before he was my accountant; we hunted together. He's a fine fella, and he's fun to be with." Smith said.

Meet Mr. Fitzgerald

• NAME: Jack Fitzgerald

• AGE: 81

• MARRIED: Rita Fitzgerald, wife of 61 years

• CHILDREN: Two daughters, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren

• EDUCATION: Attended accounting courses at UCLA and took his CPA exam in California; he had to apply for reciprocity when he moved to Texas

• SPEAKS: English and Spanish

• EXERCISE: Lifting weights, bicycling and playing golf

Jack Fitzgerald hopes to improve his golf skills in the near future.

"I've always worked," he said. "I took up golf when I was 50 years old."

After 53 years as a certified public accountant at Bumgardner, Morrison & Co., the 81-year-old retired Thursday. He'll continue to do a little bit of work on the side, but mostly, he plans on spending time with his wife, Rita, and visiting the Victoria golf courses.

"There are some good golfers here at the firm," he said. "I'm not one of them."

Road to success

"Don't see how little you can do; see how much you can do. Also, you help yourself by helping others. That's the way I treat clients and people; it's pretty simple - you work hard, and you'll be successful."

Working at an early age

At about 11 years old, Fitzgerald worked at a laundromat in San Antonio, where he mastered his job and everyone else's. "My job was to wrap the clothes after they washed them and put them on the shelf. It didn't take me long to learn all the customers' names, and when they got out of their cars, I'd bring their packages to them. ... In the process, I learned everything and could operate all the equipment. I wasn't supposed to be doing that because I was too young."

Thoughts on the military

He was supposed to serve in the Army during the Korean War for two years but left early to enroll in accounting courses at the University of California-Los Angeles. He never went overseas and stayed in California.

"I just didn't like the service. They had people that weren't very bright trying to tell you what to do. It was frustrating. I would have been in the space program if I'd have done what they told me to. I'm glad I didn't."

Joining Bumgardner, Morrison & Co.

"They were good to me when I first started. I could grind out so much work - I learned real quickly. I hadn't been here too long when Mr. (Joseph B.) Bumgardner said, 'I need to send you to Houston to learn how to wire boards for computers.' I said, 'If you think I can, I'll do it.'"

Always a businessman

He's spent time on various boards and organizations, including time with the Victoria Jaycees, as director of Citizens National Bank and as chairman of the DeWitt County Appraisal Board. "I tried not to do too many things because work always came first."

Personal inspirations

Fitzgerald spent four summers living with his dad's oldest sister in Sweetwater. Whenever he doubted himself, his aunt told him something that stayed with him. "She'd tell me, 'You can do anything you want to do if you really want to.' That had a big impact on me." If she was alive now, he believes she would be proud him.

Parental guidance

"Even when I was younger, back in the Depression, people would come to the door asking if we had any food. My dad would always tell them, 'Yes.' And then they would want to eat out on the porch. But my dad would say, 'No. You're going to eat with us.' He didn't think anyone was better than him - black or brown - and I was raised that way. That's the way I feel about people. ... I tried to raise my family the same."

Semi-retired

He'll keep working as a broker, trustee and as an executor of estates with the company. He's really just retiring from audits, accounting and tax returns. "I'll be doing something, I know, because I just can't sit around and do nothing."

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