(By Bob Collins, Gail Fitch and the Fitch Family)
Ed Fitch passed away unexpectedly early the morning of June 12, 2020 at Lutheran General
Hospital, Park Ridge, Illinois. Ed was born May 17, 1934 to Jesse and Rachel Fitch. He is
survived by his wife of 26 years, Gail Fitch, and brothers, Jesse and Leonard, and sister Martha
Rivers, all of California. He is survived by his sons Edward J. (JoAnn) Jr., Ricky (Tina) and
stepdaughter Laurie McDermott (Dan), stepson Ken Bordignon, seven grandchildren and ten
greatgrandchildren. Ed was preceded in death by his first wife, Joyce (Jannusch) Fitch.
Ed served our country by enlisting in the United States Navy, serving during the Korean
conflict on the USS Buck. Ed was a Lieutenant in the Arlington Heights Fire Department
for many years. He was one of the first paramedics trained in Illinois through an intensive
program at a local hospital.
Ed was passionate about falconry. He loved sharing his knowledge and had many devoted and
faithful apprentices. Ed was the go to guy” in the Midwest for young and old falconers with
husbandry or training problems. The Fitch house at 834 Hickory in Arlington Heights was a
well-known gathering spot for the falconry community, be it local, national or international!
Ed’s late wife Joyce was a pleasant warm person always willing to feed so many visitors.
Ed’s friends liked to tease him that when the USFWS service gained jurisdiction over raptors
in the mid-70s, the government mandated that all falconry permit applicants pass a falconry
exam. For lifelong falconers such as Ed, the exam was an irritating necessity and a “no-
brainer”. However, even though Ed passed with a very high score, his wife Joyce (who got a
permit so Ed could have more than the then minimum three birds if he wanted) got a higher
score than Ed by listening to the endless hawk talk at her kitchen table.
Ed was one of the very few lucky falconers to have been married to two wonderful,
understanding falconry wives: Joyce and Gail. Ed and Gail moved to Nebraska so they could
fly their birds in a lifestyle very few can experience. Gail is an accomplished falconer in her
own right and would like to see all their names on the Archives of Falconry’s Wall/Book of
Remembrance. She personifies grace and class and would like Ed’s plaque to appear between
one for Joyce and her own (hopefully in the distant future). Donations to the Archives for
Ed’s plaque can be made online at her request.
Ed served as a founder and officer in the Great Lakes Falconers Association, a longtime NAFA
member and Great Lakes Director. Ed put Redtails on the international stage with an early
article in the 1966 NAFA Journal The North American ‘Hawk Eagle’”.
NAFAs board of directors elevated longtime member Edward Fitch to Honorary Member.
Ed was lifelong friend and life mentor to the late Kenny Sterner. Kenny asked the then NAFA
president for the privilege of telling Ed of this honor. Kenny said that when he called Ed to
tell him, Ed and Gail were driving to the clinic for his ongoing dialysis treatments. Ed pulled
over to take Kenny’s call. Always surprisingly emotional for a big man, Ed broke down and
cried when told of NAFAs recognizing him with such an honor.
EDWARD C. FITCH, SR.
1934-2020 • NAFA Director and Honorary Member
REMEMBERING MY FRIEND
by Steve VanZandt
Back in the sixties, in the early days of Illinois
falconry, Ed’s Fitch’s place in Arlington Heights
became the staging area for many exciting hawking
outings. Ed was somewhat older than we high school kids
and his knowledge of the sport and willingness to share
made him a natural mentor to a whole legion of young
falconers. On top of that, Ed had a great sense of humor
and was a lot of fun to be around.
Ed’s career as a fireman gave him lots of time to fly hawks
and he dedicated himself to becoming the best falconer
he could be. He was instrumental in the creation and
development of the Great Lakes Falconers Association
(GLFA) and emerged as an important figure in national
falconry as well. Joining NAFA close to its beginning, he
regularly attended the annual field meets where he often
took wild game.
I was fortunate to be able to accompany Ed into the field
again in the seventies and eighties when he flew many
excellent game hawks. I came to appreciate not only his
falconry expertise but his excellent observational skills.
Several times after flying one of his birds he would turn
to me and ask, “Did you see that?”. Often when my reply
had missed the mark, he would explain exactly what had
happened. Like the time his Peregrine, The Witch, had
stooped to the anticipated intercept point of an airborne
pheasant instead of aiming directly at the obliquely flying
bird. Or the time his falcon made a snap loop-the-loop,
flipping over backwards after zooming up from the first
stoop to make a second pass. It was so fast I hadn’t noticed.
Ed and his first wife, Joyce (who passed away in 1989),
showed so many of us such warm hospitality and genuine
kindness that I, for one, will always be grateful. I spent
many happy evenings at their home following eventful
days in the field. That little house was really a focal point
and terminus for Midwest falconry in general. One time I
stopped in to say hello and was introduced to author Jack
Mavrogordato who was visiting from England. A special
event was always Ed’s spring birthday party when falconers
and spouses spent the evening socializing and partaking of
the culinary bounty from the year’s hawking successes.
Ed was a good fireman too. If you were ever in a burning
building and needed someone to come rescue you, Ed
was the guy that could do it. He was big, strong and
courageous. I visited him many times at the various local
fire stations when he was on duty and I can tell you
Lieutenant Fitch was liked and well-respected. Several times
he was injured in the line of duty and underwent a number
of painful and agonizing surgeries to repair the damage.
So it turned out that not only did Ed teach me a lot about
falconry, he described and demonstrated to me many of the
horrible things that can happen to the First Responders and
the human body!
After Ed retired, he and his second wife Gail who had been
his falconry apprentice moved to the sand hills of Nebraska
where they spent many wonderful years enjoying the sport
together. With Ed Fitch’s passing, NAFA and the falconry
community have lost an illustrious personage but his
passion, dedication and love of life is not to be forgotten.
Larger than Life
Thats how most who knew Ed would describe him. A big man with an even bigger heart for all those
who surrounded him. He had a deep love for the birds and the people who shared in his lifelong
passion for falconry, and, if you were lucky enough to have know him, you will never forget him.
MY SPONSOR,
MY FRIEND
by Frank Krygowski
I was a 24-year-old aspiring falconer
the 1st time I met Ed Fitch.
I had joined the Great Lakes Falconry
Association, in my quest to find a
sponsor.
The task wasn’t so easy. So, after going
to many GLFA meetings I started hearing
about a guy named Ed Fitch, who was a
retired fireman and might have the time
to sponsor me.
I also was told he was a pretty good
falconer. Knowing what I know now that
was quite the understatement.
Once I got his phone number, I gave him
a call. After a short conversation of
explaining my intentions of wanting to
hunt with birds of prey, he invited me
out to his home.
I was there maybe 10 minutes trying
to feel the guy out, and he said to me
“Jump in the truck I have to train my
bird”.
Instant excitement came over me, I could
not believe that the first time I meet this
guy he was taking me out to fly his bird.
I asked him what kind of bird he
was flying. He stated it was a tiercel
peregrine. At the time I was not sure
what a tiercel was, but I did not question
it in fear of Ed realizing I wasn’t up on
my falconry terminology.
After a fifteen-minute ride we were at
a downed corn field. Ed pulls out this
beautiful peregrine something I never
seen before in real life.
My head was spinning. Ed proceeds to
remove the birds hood and jesses. And
off the bird goes.
Till this day I can hear the bells ringing to
the wing beats as the bird starts ringing
up. I was amazed!
When the bird was about the size of a
quarter in the sky over head he served
it a pigeon. The sound of the bird as it
stooped toward the pigeon had my heart
racing. I was blown away.
On the ride back, I must have hit the
man with a thousand questions, and
when I asked him if he would sponsor
me, without hesitation, he said “certainly
my boy”
From that day on until his passing he has
treated me like family. After 36 years of
friendship, I have so many story’s I could
tell of all the hunting trips and trapping
of birds, and the times just talking with
him about falconry, and just life I could
write a book.
I feel fortunate to have met the man and
privileged to have learned from his art.
With his passing, part of me has died
too. I miss you my sponsor, my friend.
HE IS MISSED!
By Larry Miller
I learned about Ed through an
ad for a poultry supply house in
Iowa. He had ordered something
from them and somehow they
found out that he was a falconer so
they included his name and address
on their mailings under Falconry!
Needless to say he was not happy.
Several letters to him were ignored,
not surprisingly. My next course of
action was to pay him a visit.
Luckily he was home and not on
duty at the fire station. We talked
for awhile and when I mentioned
that I was also a fireman, our
friendship was solidified. He opened
his library to me and suggested
several falconry books. A tour of
his facilities and explanation of its
construction gave me an idea of
what was required. His information
was invaluable.
The passing years were filled
with visits to his home to meet
falconers from around the world.
Mavrogordato from England,
Awender originally from Austria,
and a falconer from India who sat
bare-footed on the living room
rug and deftly wove a net that was
anchored to his big toe!
Hunting trips were numerous and
exciting. We would fly red-tails for
rabbits and then pheasants with
his long-wings, either peregrines or
gyrs.
I preferred to release red-tails after
a hunting season and trap another
for the next season. My luck wasn’t
going too well as I was only able to
trap small birds and was determined
to fly a BIG red-tail (my ego I guess).
Ed invited me to try at his blind and
Voila’, we were successful!
We returned to Ed’s home and
jessed her up. As I reached over to
position her, being mindful of her
large talons, she bent down and bit
my lip, laying it wide open!! Ed’s
wife Joyce ran for bandages and,of
course, Ed laughed with great
amusement! His comment was
“Sure is fun to handle fresh-trapped
red-tails.”
His presence at any function was
always a highlight. His stories were
always a delight. HE IS MISSED!