Mary S. Fitzpatrick, author of three books about New Orleans and longtime editor of a magazine about preservation efforts in the city, died Tuesday of undetermined causes in Hendersonville, N.C., where she was spending the holidays. She was 64.
Fitzpatrick was born in Kansas City, Mo., and was raised in Wichita, Kan., and the Kansas City area. She graduated from the University of Colorado.
She lived in New Orleans in the late 1970s, while her husband, Vaughan, was attending law school, and returned to the city in 1992 after spending years abroad while her husband served in the Navy and worked for Chevron Oil Co.
Early in her career, she taught English as a second language for the U.S. State Department in Naples, Italy, and later at Al Nada Women’s Society in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Later, while living in Sudan, Fitzpatrick earned a graduate degree in folk culture from the University of Khartoum, where she wrote her thesis on the relationship between certain tribes and animals that they consider ancestors. She also worked as a copy editor for the University of Khartoum Press.
Later, while living in London, she researched the neighborhoods of London’s East End for the Museum of London and wrote feature articles for publications targeting the city’s American community. While in Moscow, she worked as a writer and photographer for the Moscow Tribune. Later, back in the U.S., she was an exhibit coordinator at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Folk Art.
Fitzpatrick spent 18 years as editor of Preservation in Print, the monthly magazine of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, which began in 1994.
Under her editorship, Preservation in Print won numerous awards from local and national press organizations. Her own writing, which largely focused on the communities, buildings and people that make New Orleans’ neighborhoods unique and dynamic, was honored several times by the New Orleans Press Club.
She also authored or co-authored three books about the city that fascinated and inspired her: “New Orleans: Life in an Epic City,” “New Orleans’ Favorite Shotguns” and “New Orleans: Days and Nights in the Dreamy City.”
For the last book, published in December, she spent years compiling local residents’ favorite activities, places to eat, secret haunts and ideal itineraries. She and co-author Virginia McCollam then transformed the lists into a guide to experiencing New Orleans.
Fitzpatrick donated the proceeds of all three of her books to the Preservation Resource Center with the goal of furthering its work of preserving the city’s authenticity.
She often invited nonprofit organizations and other groups into her Garden District home for celebrations. She served as queen of Mystic in the 2007 Carnival season and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, the Garden Study Club and the Junior League.
After Hurricane Katrina, Fitzpatrick worked to help families rebuild and return to the city. She also sought to encourage and promote the work of young artists, writers and professionals with whom she came in contact, both formally, through organizations including 504ward and Women of the Storm, and informally as a mentor.
She was a former board member of the Garden District Association, Longue Vue House and Gardens, Save Our Cemeteries and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
Survivors include her husband, Vaughan Fitzpatrick, and two sons, Fletcher and Welles Fitzpatrick.
Funeral arrangements are pending.