We would like to pay tribute to and celebrate the lives of three important members of our Syracuse Habitat for Humanity family who passed away - Carol Hunter George, James D. Fitzpatrick and Barbara Leach. Each played a pivotal role in the creation and success of Syracuse Habitat for Humanity.
Carol Hunter George, a founding member of Syracuse Habitat for Humanity, was a native of Coleridge, Nebraska. She graduated from Yankton College in South Dakota with a degree in Theology. While working as Director of Education at East Cleveland Congregational Church, she met and married Rev. P.V. George. They lived and served in churches in Vermont and New Hampshire for 20 years before moving to Syracuse to serve the Fairmount Community Church in 1980.
In 1972 while in Plymouth, NH their church hosted Millard and Linda Fuller who later became co-founders of Habitat for Humanity International. In 1983, as Syracuse Habitat was incorporated, Carol served as the affiliate’s first Financial Secretary. She developed a Speakers Bureau of Habitat participants to spread the word about Habitat to civic groups, congregations and other organizations.
Carol served on the Syracuse Habitat Family Selection Committee which chose the Whatley family, the first family to move into a Syracuse Habitat house on Midland Ave on May 3, 1986. In 1993, Carol wrote a ten year history of Syracuse Habitat – 1983-1993.
James D. Fitzpatrick was a lifelong resident of Syracuse. As a board member, volunteer and supporter, Jim worked tirelessly for Syracuse Habitat for Humanity for over 30 years.
Jim was a modest man who lived his life with quiet dignity, an understated class, a strong character and a heart filled with kindness and generosity towards others.
He earned his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law in 1963 and practiced real estate law at Bond, Schoeneck & King for nearly fifty years, becoming a partner and one of the preeminent real property practitioners in Central New York.
Jim's interests extended far beyond his legal practice. He was particularly concerned about the equitable distribution of food both locally and internationally, the affordability of housing for the poor, and literacy education.
He was a Board member of the Syracuse Cerebral Palsy and Mental Retardation, Inc., and the Food Bank of Central New York. He was active in the United Way of CNY, Syracuse Red Cross and was a legal advisor to his parish, All Saints Church.
He had an unyielding respect for tradition and a profound faith in God that carried him through life's difficult times. "Fitz" displayed a true Irishman's sense of humor and an ability to laugh at himself. Above all else, Jim was dedicated to the support and welfare of his twin brothers, William and Francis, who predeceased him.
Jim was Chair of the Real Property Committee of the Onondaga County Bar Association, President of the Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society, a member of the American Bar and International Bar Associations, the New York Bar Foundation, and the World Jurist Association of the World Peace Law Center.
Jim was the recipient of many awards but he was most honored to be recognized by the Syracuse Post Standard as a Person of Achievement in 2000 for making his hometown a better place.
When Syracuse Habitat for Humanity was just getting started in 1983, Barbara Leach was on the original Board of Directors. Her deep involvement and interest in Habitat for Humanity continued throughout her life. For 16 years she and her loving husband Ray chaired the Annual Youth/Adult S.W.E.A.T. for HABITAT BOWL-A-THON which raised thousands of dollars to support Syracuse Habitat.
Barbara’ s volunteer work with Habitat earned her the coveted Impact Award for Non-profits in 2012. Along with the Bowl-A-Thon, she organized an active group of members from a variety of churches who met monthly and held craft sales to raise money for Habitat.
Barbara was originally from Iowa. After living for a time in Milwaukee, she and her husband, Ramon D. Leach moved to Syracuse and she worked as the public relations director for the Syracuse YWCA.
Barbara later retired to pursue a full time career of motherhood. Being without a paid position did not stop this woman with boundless energy from volunteer work. She published a community newsletter, The Hillviewer, using an old typewriter to cut stencils, running the stencils on a mimeograph machine, and then getting the finished product to people in Onondaga Hill.
She was an active member of the Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church and served as the church historian. She chaired the 200th anniversary of the founding of the OHPC in 2006. She was very proud of her Community Service award from Syracuse Rotary Club.
In addition to her volunteer pursuits, Barbara found time to enjoy life and family. She loved the many years spent on Otisco Lake. The pontoon boat rides, the July 3rd fireworks celebrations, the 20 mile garage sale along Otisco Valley Road, looking for fossils around the lake, and watching the Great Blue Herons fishing at the south end of the lake. Truly a life well lived!