Joe Fitzmartin—a legend, an icon, a fan favorite—might have expected a little fanfare as his retirement from Penn Charter approached. After 25 years of exemplary teaching, choral directing and piano accompaniment, surely he could count on a piece of cake and a few high-fives.
But Mr. Fitz could never have expected the gift he did receive.
On June 10, two days before Commencement, his last PC gig, he was escorted to the lobby on the second floor of the Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts, outside the Roberts Choral Room, where—surprise!—some colleagues awaited.
A large television screen lit up the space and— now, this was odd—the ubiquitous Zoom screen soon showed Amanda Roberts OPC ’12, Sarah Roberts Hall OPC ’06 and Brian Roberts, father of the two OPC sisters and their brother, Tucker Roberts OPC ’09.
On behalf of his wife, Aileen, Roberts greeted Joe Fitz, an old friend from Tucker’s days singing with the Keystone State Boychoir and Penn Charter choral groups, including Quakers Dozen.
Roberts got right to the point, the quite stunning point: “You have touched Tucker’s life and so many others. Our family wanted to change the name of the Roberts Choral Room to the Fitzmartin Choral Room so, forever, the happy sounds that people will create in that room will be connected to you and what you have meant to so many people.”
The gregarious Mr. Fitz said, “I’m speechless.”
“Wow. My name on the wall. You just made my life. This is outrageous. I don't know what to say. Holy mackerel. This is beyond a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Bottom of my heart. Thank you. And be sure to tell Tucker that Fitz said, ‘Yo.’”
Tucker, who lives in California, was in-flight and unable to join the Zoom surprise, but he sent a reminiscence of his days singing, touring and learning from Fitzmartin, which Amanda read. His former teacher appreciated the memories, including that Tucker managed to squeeze in a quintessentially Fitz joke: How many carrots do you add to the soup to turn the soup gold?