Every moment of every day, clocks were ticking in Frieda Fitzgerald’s home. Wall clocks, desk clocks, cuckoo clocks. They filled the walls and shelves of every room in her house.
It was a collection Frieda and her late husband, H. Douglas, worked years to amass. When H. Douglas Fitzgerald’s days ran short—he died in 1989—Frieda, a retired Oklahoma City receptionist, devoted much of her time to her nephew Timothy Garen, who suffered from muscular dystrophy and, eventually, kidney failure and diabetes.
The clocks ticked as her nephew’s health declined from the ravages of disease. She accompanied him to dialysis sessions and saw firsthand how he suffered. Upon his death, she made a pledge to do whatever she could to help others enjoy what her nephew could not—a long, healthy life.
When Frieda herself died in 2007 at the age of 76, she left her entire estate, in Timothy’s memory, to support medical research at OMRF. Earlier this month, her estate closed, and OMRF received the balance of her bequest—a gift totaling $401,658.
“Frieda never met a stranger,” said Clifford Brown, who worked with her for many years at the Oklahoma City architectural firm of Hudgins, Thompson, Ball and Associates and served as trustee for her estate. “She was always doing something for someone else. She was a woman of modest means, but her nephew’s health issues really touched her heart. Frieda’s generosity sets a wonderful example for the rest of us to give to something that really matters to us but will also make a difference for others.”
Frieda had many passions in life. She was an avid Oklahoma City Blazers hockey fan and longtime season ticket holder. In addition to clocks, she collected figurines, carnival glass and coffee grinders and each year decorated her Christmas tree with treasured figurines from her 500-item Annalee doll collection.
Her backyard koi pond was a regular stop on the annual pond tour in her area. And, in a time when few can even name a handful of their neighbors, she knew and cared for all those who lived nearby; she reveled in baking pumpkin bread and Rocky Road fudge for her neighbors and friends. Her greatest joy, Brown said, was giving, and she did so to the end.
“I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the best thing I could do would be to leave my entire estate to medical research in Tim’s memory,” Frieda wrote two years before her death. “If my small contribution can help find a treatment or cure for any of these illnesses so that another child could be spared these debilitating diseases, I cannot imagine a better usage of what I have accumulated during my lifetime.”
Her gift will go to support research at OMRF, where scientists study a variety of conditions related to muscular dystrophy. OMRF researchers are also investigating the cellular processes central to diabetes as well as diseases in which kidney failure is a leading cause of death.
“People like Frieda Fitzgerald mean so much to OMRF, not simply because of the gifts they give but because of their passion for life and health,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “She gave everything she had to effect change in the lives of people she would never know.”