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Mary Fitzpatrick dies unexpectedly at age 64

Mary S. Fitzpatrick, a New Orleans cultural activist and part-time resident of Hendersonville, died Tuesday (Dec. 31) at age 64 at the Main Street condominium she shared with her husband, Vaughan Fitzpatrick. The cause of death remained undetermined on Friday.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick, an editor and author, was known for her work at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, which works to save historic architecture and New Orleans neighborhood cultures. For 18 years, she edited the organization's magazine, Preservation in Print.
She also authored or co-authored three books for the PRC: "New Orleans: Life in an Epic City," "New Orleans' Favorite Shotguns" and "New Orleans: Days and Nights in the Dreamy City," the last of which appeared in December to great acclaim, according to an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and its website,
Mary and Vaughan Fitzpatrick had spent more time in Hendersonville in recent years as Fitzpatrick, a retired corporate attorney, worked with the Partnership for Economic Development and Henderson County officials to turn his family's Mills River property into Ferncliff Industrial Park. Fitzpatrick and his brothers sold 100 acres of the industrial land to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. for the California company's first East Coast brewery.
The land, known since the mid-1800s as Ferncliff, had been in the Westfeldt family since the late 1800s. Fitzpatrick is a fifth generation descendant of Gustaf Adolphus George Westfeldt, the New Orleans coffee company owner who brought his family to Fletcher in 1870 and settled at the Rugby Grange.

Fitzpatrick and his brothers had inherited the home known as the Green House and surrounding land, which was at the edge of a vast tract of land that George Westfeldt, the patriarch, had bought.

Like the Westfeldts and McIlhennys, the Fitzpatricks and other branches of the extended Westfeldt family considered Fletcher and Hendersonville a summer retreat, taking refuge from the New Orleans heat in the Blue Ridge Mountain air.
A native of Kansas City and graduate of the University of Colorado, Mrs. Fitzpatrick honed her curiosity and her passion for different cultures while living abroad, her husband told the New Orleans newspaper.
"Wherever we lived, Mary was deeply involved in every community," he said. "She took a hands-on approach to helping people, and her goal was to understand the local culture rather than imposing outside solutions. She brought those experiences in Africa, the Middle East and Italy to New Orleans when we moved back here in 1992."
The Fitzpatricks had become friends of the Mills River community as they worked with town officials, county leaders and Sierra Nevada owners to bring the craft brewery to the Ferncliff site on the French Broad River just west of the Asheville Regional Airport. The couple had been out to dinner Monday night with Gayle and Roger Snyder, who served for 10 years as Mills River's mayor.

Aside from her work researching, writing and editing, Mary Fitzpatrick had enthusiastically adopted with her husband the project to build a new mountaintop outside of Hendersonville from pieces of the old Green House, which contractors had taken apart, shrink-wrapped and stored.
Besides her husband, Mrs. Fitzpatrick is survived by two sons, Fletcher and Welles Fitzpatrick, who had arrived in Hendersonville to be with their father after their mother's death.

A funeral service was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1329 Jackson Avenue, in New Orleans. A visitation will be held at the church beginning at 10 a.m. To view and sign the guest book, visit


  Information from the New Orleans Times-Picayune and was used in this report.