Patrick Fittipaldi

Obituary of Patrick Joseph Fittipaldi

Pat Fittipaldi, 93

Patrick Joseph Fittipaldi, a longtime resident of Somerset County, died peacefully in hospice care on May 9, 2024. He was 93.

While blessed with a long lifespan, Pat firmly believed in the maxim that what mattered most wasn’t the number of years he would live, but how much life he could put into each of those years. Pat lived every one of his years to the fullest in his chosen roles as a business owner, builder, community leader, elected representative, and philanthropist. More importantly, he was a devoted son, husband, father, and grandfather who treasured his deep faith, his extended family, and his legion of friends.

Born on New Year’s Day, 1931, Pat was the first baby registered in Hudson County that year. The 1940 Census shows the Fittipaldi Family—father Joe, mother Nellie, and younger sister Annabelle—living in a modest home on Whiton Street in Jersey City.

Joe Fittipaldi founded a construction company and Pat began learning his father’s business, brick by brick. The family moved from Jersey City to North Plainfield, where Pat graduated from North Plainfield High School in 1951 where he served as student band director. His love of music began there and continued throughout his life. Later, he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.

In 1951, Pat enlisted in the Army during the Korean Conflict and was stationed in Japan, Korea, and Alaska. He later termed his military service as a “defining period of my life” and the experience that instilled in him the confidence and initiative to lead. Returning home in 1953, he began his studies toward a civil engineering degree from the Newark College of Engineering (now known as NJIT) while working with the family business, Jos. Fittipaldi & Son.

He also attracted the eye of a nursing student, Phyllis Marie Regan. They fell in love, married in 1957, and were blessed with two children, Lisa and Joseph. It was around this time that Jos. Fittipaldi  & Son was contracted to renovate an estate home to create the Warren Township Municipal Building. The couple went on to build their first home in Warren, where Pat became head of Civil Defense, while Phyllis served on the Rescue Squad.

Pat’s call to lead would come when his father, Joe, died suddenly in 1969. Now the president of the family business, he refocused the company on larger commercial, government, and industrial buildings. His company built or renovated a large number of landmark buildings in the region, including Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield High School, and Wilson Memorial Union Church.

The Fittipaldi Family built a home in Watchung in 1962 and Pat, a new father, began volunteering in the community. He helped form Watchung’s Pop Warner Football League and joined Lion’s Club International. Pat’s more than half-century as a Lion included the position of President, from 2002 to 2024.

In 1972, Pat won the election to the Watchung Borough Council. He went on to become Council President for 11 years, dedicated to issues that included building the town’s infrastructure, stepping up flood control, improving services for veterans and senior citizens, and offering new programs to foster better education.

He left the Council in 1985 to run for a seat on the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders (now known as the Board of County Commissioners). There, Pat was elected to three terms and earned a reputation for decency,  integrity, and a willingness to forge consensus. The Freeholders elected him to serve as Director for two consecutive terms. Anticipating future growth in the county, Pat spearheaded the idea of consolidating the county offices into a central Administration Building. He initiated the construction of a new courthouse and jail and converted the historic church to a jury assembly room and meeting space. He also oversaw the restoration of the stately courthouse.

Pat long advocated for more affordable access to quality education. While a Freeholder, he played a key role in the founding of what is now Raritan Valley Community College. Today RVCC  is nationally recognized for innovation and value in education. He subsequently served on the College’s Board of Trustees and its Foundation Board. He persuaded the Freeholders to loan funds to the College for the construction of both a state-of-the-art theater and a new library. While serving on the College Foundation Board, he encouraged donors to make additional capital improvements to the school. In 2019, in appreciation for his efforts, a scholarship was created by the college in his honor. Pat was also the Freeholder liaison to Somerset County Vocational and Technical School, where he helped raise funds to modernize that school’s offerings, including the construction of new buildings.

Pat retired from the Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1995 when he was elected as the Somerset County Surrogate. His responsibilities included protecting the interests of minors who inherit an estate, overseeing all adoptions of children and adults in the county, and the administration and probate of the estates. However, his favorite aspect of the job was serving as the officiant of over 200 weddings. He delighted in the role and took care to include something special in the ceremony for each couple he married.

In the early 2000s, Pat began winding down his political and business endeavors to devote more time to his family, which now included two cherished grandchildren, Amelia and Claire. Nevertheless, over the course of his illustrious career, he received numerous local, regional, and even national honors, including “Man of the Year” from UNICO, the USA’s largest Italian-American service organization. This honor was appropriate, as Pat took great pride in his Italian heritage and enjoyed travels around Italy with both family and friends. He was also honored as Somerset County Man of the Year and received other recognitions too numerous to name.

At home, Pat loved to tell and listen to good stories. Gifted with a servant’s heart, he took immense interest in the education and careers of his cousins, nieces, and nephews, and served as a mentor to many in his family and circle of friends. Pat was devoted to his Roman Catholic faith and strived to live by its teachings. He abided by traditions—Mass on Sunday, often followed by visits to his aunts and uncles, and then by an expansive family dinner where the talk would be of politics, sports, history, and family lore.

Pat was predeceased by his parents, Joseph Henry Fittipaldi and Nellie Fittipaldi; his beloved bride, Phyllis; and his brother-in-law and close friend, Dick Bittone, along with numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.

He is survived by a daughter, Lisa, married to Tony Digirolamo; a son, Joseph, married to Carolyn Fittipaldi; two grandchildren, Claire and Amelia; a step-grandson Thomas Matthew Marsh and a step-great-grandson Matthew Marsh. He is also survived by his sister Annabelle Bittone and three generations of nieces, nephews, and cousins.  

A visitation will be held on Monday, May 13, 2024, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., at Higgins Home for Funerals, 752 Mountain Blvd., Watchung, NJ. A funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at 10:00 a.m., at St. Mary's Stony-Hill R.C. Church, 225 Mountain Blvd., Watchung, NJ. Pat will then be laid to rest at St. Mary's Stony-Hill Cemetery, in sight of the church he helped build.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Pat’s favorite charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.



Visitation at the Funeral Home

4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Monday, May 13, 2024
Higgins Home for Funerals
752 Mountain Blvd.
Watchung, New Jersey, United States


10:00 am
Tuesday, May 14, 2024
St. Mary's Stony Hill R.C. Church
225 Mountain Boulevard
Watchung, New Jersey, United States

Final Resting Place

St. Mary's Stony-Hill Cemetery
Plainfield Avenue
Watchung, New Jersey, United States
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