Lives of the fellows

William Rex Fitzgerald

b.18 October 1939 d.13 October 1996
MB BCh Wales(1962) MRCP(1970) DCH(1974) FRCP(1984)

Rex spent most of his medical career in the RAF. He was devoted to the service and at the time of his death held the rank of air commodore. He was born in Brecon and educated at Jones West Monmouth School, Pontypool, Gwent, and at the Welsh National School of Medicine. After house officer appointments at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, he joined the RAF and served in Cyprus, Germany and the United Kingdom. In periods of study leave he became an expert in renal medicine, paediatrics and cardiology. In 1972 he was attached to the cardiac unit at Papworth Hospital as a senior registrar. For many years thereafter he worked part time in the cardiac clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. During this time he made a valuable study of infective endocarditis in East Anglia.

He was appointed as a consultant physician to the RAF in 1974. Most of his consultant career was spent at the RAF Hospital, Ely, where he served as commanding officer. It was in this capacity that he had to supervise the closure of the hospital and he carried out this difficult task with efficiency and style, earning the respect of the otherwise dispirited staff. The closure affected Rex deeply and contributed to his volunteering to take early retirement. In the housing estate that will replace the hospital a close has been named after him.

To his colleagues he was first and foremost a loyal and well liked friend. His larger than life stature extended beyond his physique to his love of the pleasures of companionship and the esprit de corps of RAF life. It was his sensitive touch and genuine warmth that endeared him to all his fellow servicemen, especially during crises such as the closure of long cherished service hospitals.

Rex had a passion for rugby which, at school and university, he played to a high standard. He was responsible for setting up mini rugby in Ely and ran youth teams for many years. He was also involved in local drama and acted on his tours of duty in Germany. He became a keen golfer and planned to give more time to this in his retirement. Sadly, within six months of leaving the RAF, he suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He almost overcame this emergency and, after surgery, managed to survuve in intensive care for fifty days before finally succumbing to overwhelming complications.

He was a highly respected physician, a first class administrator and, above all, a devoted family man with a lively sense of humour and a great zest for life. In 1962 he married Elizabeth Guy. They had two sons and two daughters.

Hugh Fleming

(Volume X, page 141)

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