LANSDALE — The greater North Penn region lost a leading light in the healthcare and community service field with the passing of Kathleen A. “Kitty” Fitzgerald on April 17 after a brief battle with cancer. She was preceded in death by her husband Bill Fitzgerald just two weeks before, on April 2.
A nurse by training, Kitty, 73, served two decades as executive director of the North Penn Visiting Nurse Association, continued as Director of Home Healthcare and Hospice for Jefferson (then Abington Jefferson) Health, and was instrumental in the founding of both the Bucks-Mont Collaborative for Health and Human Services and the VNA Foundation of Greater North Penn.
Born Kathleen McCormick in Bridgeport, CT in 1951, Kitty was inspired by the example of her mother, Lucy, who was an administrative nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. “My mother grew up with a sense of service and helping people,” said Mark Fitzgerald, one of three sons Kitty and Bill raised in Ambler. “Serving the health needs of the community was her passion.”
Under Kitty’s leadership, the nonprofit North Penn Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) provided quality, accessible healthcare to children and adults through home-based care, prevention services, and patient services including a Children’s Clinic.
Dr. Francis Jeyaraj, a pediatrician who served as a Medical Director for the Children’s Clinic, recalled, “Kitty was a person of greater character and compassion. She had a deep commitment to all children, especially the underprivileged children from families with no insurance or who were underinsured.”
As community health needs grew more complex, Kitty stepped up to the challenge. “For Mom, it was always about expanding and adapting to serve the changing needs and demographics of the people in the North Penn area,” her son Mark noted.
Her many employees at the North Penn VNA admired Kitty for her managerial skills and ability to bring out the best in them. “Kitty was the kind of mentor that was fulfilled by those around her,” said Beverly Harrison, who served as the North Penn VNA’s Hospice Director for many years. “She would often say ‘Use your powers for good’ and she inspired others to do just that.”
According to Kathy McCarter, a longtime colleague in community health, “Kitty was a convener. She encouraged collaboration among healthcare and human service providers to come together and deliver more efficient and effective care.”
Two local initiatives that Kitty helped shepherd into existence are the Bucks-Mont Collaborative for Health and Human Services, now a nonprofit association of more than 120 organizations working together to positively impact the region, and the Jefferson Health Abington Dental Care Access Program, a unique partnership between Jefferson Health, the Montgomery-Bucks Dental Society and the VNA Foundation of Greater North Penn that began in 2014 and has since connected thousands of uninsured or underinsured children and adults with quality affordable dental care.
“Kitty was a strong advocate for access to dental health,” said Curt Deardorff, a retired dentist who served on the Board of the North Penn VNA and is the current Board President of the VNA Foundation of Greater North Penn. “She didn’t just talk about caring for others — she found ways to make it happen!”
Ten years ago, Kitty started a new chapter as a philanthropist by helping create the VNA Foundation of Greater North Penn, a funding institution that has granted millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations providing critical health services and basic human needs to underserved people in the region. “She saw the VNA Foundation as a way to continue the mission of the North Penn VNA, which was to keep people healthy and safe,” said McCarter.
Together with her husband Bill, Kitty was a committed volunteer long into her retirement. “My mother and father were role models in both recognizing the need to give back to the community and the work ethic that goes with that,” said son Mark. Added Deardorff, “Kitty was always a force for those in need, and our community is a far better place because of her.”
Services in memory of Kitty Fitzgerald will be held Friday, May 3, at St. Alphonsus Church, 33 Conwell Drive, Maple Glen. Visitation at 10 a.m., Words of Remembrance at 11:15 followed by a Funeral Mass at 11:30. https://www.urbanfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Kathleen-A-Fitzgerald-Kitty?obId=31243772