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Bud's final ride into heaven's gate

Special to the Courier

Courier archive photo
For all of his long life, Bud Fitzpatrick wrangled at both working and dude ranches, excelled in the rodeo arena, became a master farrier and trained horses - honestly earning the title "real cowboy."

John Douglas "Bud" Fitzpatrick

(Editor's note: Special thanks go out to Mary Allyce for the very special article she wrote in advance of Bud Fitzpatrick's 2014 induction into the Frontier Times Museum's Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.)

For John Douglas "Bud" Fitzpatrick, the cowboy way was the only way, and on Friday, Jan. 8, at the age of 99, he saddled up for his final ride into heaven's gate. However, his friends, family and the Bandera community will carry on Bud's spirit and zest for life.
He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Sept. 16, 1916, to Edwin and Martha Fitzpatrick. As a sickly child, he dreamed of being a cowboy and drew pictures of horses and cowboys to pass the time he spent in bed.
In his early 20s, Bud joined the rodeo circuit where he discovered his passion - riding rodeos. In 1940, prior to the Rodeo Cowboys Association and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Bud became a member of the original Turtles, accepting his association number 1114. His rodeo career led him to competing in the rodeo finals at Madison Square Garden in 1943.
After many adventures - and several bucks in the saddle - Bud made his way back to Texas where he worked as a ranch hand and learned the blacksmith trade. In 1960, he was elected chapter president of the International Journey Men Horseshoers Association after serving as an active member for many years.
During his long, productive life, Bud lived his dream as a working cowboy, an award-winning rodeo rough stock rider and respected horseshoer of performance and racehorses - not to mention full realization of his artistic talents.
For many years he followed fairs and trade shows across the United States, gaining experience and knowledge - all the while building his reputation as a master horseshoer. The skilled farrier worked tracks from Ohio to California, hand-forging shoes for Standardbred racehorses.
While working at a track in California, Bud's prized rodeo champion buckle was stolen. He had won the buckle - a rare award at the time - at a July 4 rodeo in Brady, Texas. Luckily, the buckle was later recovered from an antique dealer and presented to him by his family. For Bud, the buckle symbolized a rodeo career that had taken him from Madison Square Garden to Boston Gardens to Kissimmee, Florida.
After over two decades of traveling and shoeing at major racetracks throughout California, Bud retired from the trade. He moved back to Texas in 1979, cutting down the distance between him and his family.
An artist by hobby, Bud also established a reputation for his beautiful ornamental metal work and custom bits and spurs, as well as for his cowboy-inspired illustrations. Throughout the home of his son, World Champion Roper Kevin Fitzpatrick, are examples of his father's artistry - bits, spurs and headstalls; highly detailed metalwork, mainly of horses; a whimsically decorated suitcase; and even a "sidewinder," fashioned from a horseshoer's rasp.
Though Bud traveled the world and lived in many different places throughout his prosperous life, his home has always been Bandera - the Cowboy Capital of the World.
His hometown repaid that love in 2014. Bud was inducted into the Frontier Times Museum's Texas Heroes Hall of Honor as part of Bandera's annual celebration of the National Day of The American Cowboy.
A man of simple pleasures, Bud enjoyed telling wild stories of his glory days. No one will forget his deep and contagious love for his family and friends, and his appreciation of life in all its forms.
Bud is survived by his former wife and life companion, Mary Fitzpatrick; children, Eileen and Mike Hickman, grandchild Shannon; and great-grandchildren, Hailey and Jordan; Kathy and Scott Hatch; grandchildren, Sara and Ryan; and great-grandchild Hendrix; grandchildren, Autumn & Randy; and great-grandchild Alivia; grandchild Julie; Kevin and Trenna Fitzpatick and grandchildren, Morgan and Cody, Kati and Will; and John and Joy Fitzpatrick.
Bud is also survived by the forever-loved McNarie and Tripp family of Bandera, as well as by family and friends from across the world - too numerous to list but not forgotten.
Funeral services were held Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church with interment following at the old Catholic Cemetery.
The family extends sincere thanks to the caring and dedicated staff at Bandera Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center; the love and support shown over the years from the Frontier Times Museum; the sweet and overwhelming condolences from Joe and Virginia Davis, owners of Busbee's Bar-B-Que; and the entire community of Bandera for providing Bud Fitzpatrick with a special place to call home for so many wonderful years.