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Inverness attorney Shawn Fitzpatrick, who in 2007 took over the family law firm his late father and grandfather built, died Monday afternoon of an undisclosed illness he had battled for at least a year.
Fitzpatrick, 31, died at his home, friends said.
Sorrow and disbelief engulfed the community as news of Fitzpatrick’s death spread.
“It’s really sad. Just terribly sad,” attorney Clark Stillwell said. “Everybody’s sort of been hoping and praying there’d be a turnaround. He had a future. It was there.”
Shawn Fitzpatrick attended the University of Florida and Stetson University. He received his law degree in December 2006 — just seven months after cancer claimed his father, Richard “Spike” Fitzpatrick.
Spike Fitzpatrick had hoped to live long enough to practice together with his son at the Fitzpatrick & Fitzpatrick office on North Apopka Avenue, three blocks from Courthouse Square. Spike Fitzpatrick had practiced law there with his father, Charles B. Fitzpatrick.
Circuit Court Judge Patricia Thomas, who administered the oath of law to Shawn in an emotional Sept. 20, 2007, ceremony, said Monday the loss was devastating.
“We are all heartbroken,” Thomas said.
Shawn’s sister, Megan, joined him at Fitzpatrick & Fitzpatrick in 2010 after graduation from law school and being admitted to the Bar.
“It was awesome. It was like a dream,” Megan Fitzpatrick said. “He was a fantastic mentor. He was following in my dad’s footsteps.”
Megan said her brother was the most caring person she had ever known.
“He was my brother and my best friend,” she said.
Megan said her brother’s death shocked his family, who had seen recent improvements in his health.
“I saw him last night around midnight and he looked fantastic,” she said.
The family had not yet begun funeral arrangements Monday evening.
Citrus County Commissioner Joe Meek grew up with Shawn Fitzpatrick and is a year older. They both attended Central Catholic School of Citrus County — now Pope John Paul II Catholic School — in Lecanto.
“After Spike died, Shawn dedicated himself to continue the family practice,” Meek said. “It was a big thing for his family and for him.”
Meek said not many young attorneys start off with their own practice.
“He was successful and growing that practice,” Meek said. “He put that all on himself. I think he was dedicated to moving the Fitzpatrick legacy forward in the community.”
The Fitzpatrick family is one of high prominence in Inverness, but it’s also one touched by pain in recent years. Along with Spike Fitzpatrick’s death in 2006, Spike’s brother Kevin died in 2009 of cancer. Another brother, Timmy, died in a traffic accident years earlier.
“It’s a tragedy for his whole family,” Thomas said.
Thomas recalled a teenage Shawn appearing at her Rotary Club where he had been awarded student of the month.
“He was dressed so nicely in a white shirt and tie. He was so articulate and polite. I’m always impressed with kids who are nice to adults,” she said. “I called Spike and said, ‘your kid is like a million bucks out there.’”
Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel, who lives across the street from the Fitzpatrick family home, said Shawn was a young man who enjoyed life.
“Shawn was a great guy. He loved to have a good time. He loved his Gators,” Himmel said. “I know he always worked hard and he loved his family. We’re sure going to miss him.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or email@example.com.