When she was a little girl, like grade school years, we began to watch our neighbor’s daughter grow up. Demi Fitzgerald was always an energetic, kinetic, and perpetual motion kid, one with a warm and engaging smile.
She was a normal kid with nice manners and a pleasant countenance which meant that she made friends easily. Having abundant friends became her hallmark.
Time just seemed to sprint by the time she entered high school. We watched her being ferried to babysitting duty. There was enterprise which was impressive, something that benefitted her emergence from adolescence into a young woman.
As you might imagine, growing up in Athens, she became acquainted with a number of coeds on the University of Georgia campus. Her brother, Michael, was well connected. Her father developed client relationships across the state and they enjoyed good times centered around Georgia football. Like so much of the world out there, Georgia was on the mind of so many of her friends.
It was on hers, too.
She applied for admission to the nation’s oldest chartered state university. Unfortunately, she was deferred which is a way of life for many applicants. However, she kept the faith. She knew she could enroll at another SEC school (which was important), but so many of her friends had chosen UGA.
All the consoling rationalization that “you will make new friends, you will get a fine education, and you will have a wonderful college experience,” was comforting, but this was no time for a stiff upper lip. Her heart was breaking.
She couldn’t stand the thought of not being with her friends. She passionately wanted to pledge one of the sororities whose stately houses on Milledge Avenue she had driven by more times than she could count.
She wanted to enjoy rush week, singing on the lawn, welcoming new sorority sisters to the campus. She wanted to enroll in class with a serious academic bent. Enjoy the social life of the college experience was important since she had grown up in a household where her friends and their friends had camped out at her home during the fall football season, a compatible social comingling of adults and kids.
Her parents Mike and Jennifer Fitzgerald smiled their way through those three-to-a-sofa weekends because they wanted their kids and their friends to feel welcome at their address. Once Demi’s friends discovered Mike’s cooking touch with the grill, crashing the party at the Fitzgerald’s became a widespread custom.
When it seemed that she would be crying all the way to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, her second-choice campus—her bags were packed for the 275-mile trip—she got the most memorable call of her life. She received the news that she was an official Bulldog. She didn’t care that it was a last-minute opportunity. She could unpack her bags and redirect—for a destination five minutes away.
All was right with the world, even though non-stop crying ensued for a few minutes. She was exhilarated. Overwhelmed. She bounded across the street to share the good news. A hallelujah chorus ensued wherever she went. Demi was a Dawg.
The rest of the story was that she would enjoy her college days. She made excellent grades. She was enraptured with life between the hedges on Saturday afternoons. She had her own personal laundry mat, just minutes away. The snack bar, a mile from her residence was better than anything on campus. Then there were those cookouts when she could bring along her friends. She debunked the notion that if you grow up in a college town, you need to get away for the college experience.
When she was graduated with a Terry College degree, she found opportunity in New York. She took to “the city” as if she had grown up in Hoboken or Scarsdale or Greenwich. She was learning, she was growing, she was taking a bite out of the challenging but exciting world.
We were in New York a few years ago and invited her to dinner. She called to tell us she would be running late. There was a gathering of Georgia alumni living in Manhattan, and she wanted to stop by for a few minutes.
At dinner she raved about a Bulldog she had met. We thought little of it, considering something routine, but a week ago, she became Mrs. John Burke Lally. Catherine DeMaris Fitzgerald Lally will be a great wife. She will be a great mother, and she will forever extol the virtues of UGA wherever her journey takes her.
Her wedding was a classic. It was, if you catch my drift, a 500-sofa wedding. That is the number of sofas it would have taken to accommodate all the guests she and Jack invited. It was like old times for her, and I suspect she will enjoy a life of “old times socializing.” After all, that is a family tradition.