Raymond William "Bill" Fitch

Raymond William "Bill" Fitch, age 67 of rural Montrose, died Wednesday, March 10, 1999, at Buffalo Hospital.

Bill was born in Minneapolis April 10, 1931, the son of Ray W. and Eleanor Fleetham Fitch.

Often referred to as the dean of workers' compensation in the state of Minnesota, Bill graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1955 with a doctorate in law. He was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1957 and to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1988.

Bill began his legal career as a judge advocate in the U. S. Army in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. On return to Minnesota, he practiced with Tyrrell, Jardine, Logan and O'Brien in St. Paul, and then with Robb, Robb and Van Eps in Minneapolis.

In February 1968, Bill founded his own firm with the intent of practicing exclusively in the area of workers' compensation. The firm of Fitch, Johnson, Larson, Walsh, and Held continues to be the largest firm in Minnesota to practice exclusively in the area of workers' compensation and employment law.

Bill was tireless in his legal career. He tried hundreds of workers' compensation and liability cases and appeared on numerous occasions before the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court.

He testified before the legislature, proposed legislative changes, and annually presented a seminar on workers' compensation to numerous clients. Representative clients include Western National, Federated Insurance, General Casualty, Ohio Casualty, Risk Enterprise Management and American States Insurance.

Bill was a member of the Hennepin County and Minnesota State Bar Associations, the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association, and was listed in Who's Who in American Law 1987-1989 and "Who's Who in the World" 1989-1990.

Representative Supreme Court cases in which he was involved include Lambertson v. Cincinnati Corporation, Joyce v. Lewis Bolt & Nut Company, Margrum v. Serice Construction Company, Haverland v. Twin City Milk Producers, Assn.; and Fidler v. North Star Hockey Partnership.

Bill regarded members of his firm as not just business associates, but as family members. He took a deep interest in their professional and personal lives. He was also known for extending the same interest to his clients, forming life-long relationships.

He was proud of all members of his firm and spoke highly of former firm members Peg Brenden, Janice Culnane, and Kathleen Behounek, workers' compensation judges, and Deb Wilson, on the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals.

In February 1998, on the 30th anniversary of the firm, Bill retired from the practice of law, but stayed active in the firm attending meetings, handling arbitrations, and attending firm events.

Bill was a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem since 1977 and a faithful member of the Church of St. Mary in Waverly, serving on the parish council. He sang in St. Mary's liturgical choir and in the archdiocesan choir.

Bill is survived by his wife Antoinette of Montrose; sons, Albert, Robert (Molly), and Michael (Kristin), all of Minneapolis, daughter, Mary Therese (Anne) of Belle Plaine; grandchildren, Sarah, Grace, Lily and William; sister and brother-in-law Marilyn and Frank Gibbs of Bloomington; other relatives and many friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ray W. and Eleanor Fitch.

A concelebrated Mass of the Resurrection was Saturday, March 13, 11:30 a.m. at the Church of St. Mary in Waverly. The Revs. William F. Martin and David Suwalsky. S.J. were the concelebrants. Interment followed at St. Mary's Cemetery.

Friends called at the church Friday, March 12, from 5 to 8 p.m. and also on Saturday one hour prior to Mass. A prayer service was at 7 p.m. Friday.

John Suwalsky and Larry Pecchia were the readers for the Mass; Al Suwalsky, Joanie Suwalsky and Mary Barry were gift bearers. Communion meditation was by Mary Therese (Anne). Eucharistic ministers were John Suwalsky, Sue Suwalsky, and Bea and Pete Gagnon. Vic Johnson, David Larson and Michael Fitch gave the eulogy.

Special music for the Mass was provided by the St. Mary's Funeral Choir, Schola of St. Anne's Parish, Jim Noble, cantor; Mark Seerup, oboeist; Shelby Logeais, bell tree carrier; John Gibbs, bagpipes; and Jay Huntstiger and Patricia Munson, directors/organists.

Wilbur McLaughlin, Warren Larson and William Haas were honorary casket bearers. Active casket bearers were Vic Johnson, Dave Larson, Mark Freeman, Mike Carr, Paul Schmidt, Clarence Birk, David Gillham and Peter Trebtoske.

Memorials are suggested for the Church of St. Mary or the Minnesota Orchestra.

The Peterson Chapel in Buffalo served the family.

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