Peter Marshall Fitzgerald
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 9:20 p.m.
Peter Marshall Fitzgerald did not live his life along a predictable path, appropriate for a man who was an early developer of global positioning system technology before he switched coordinates to raise sheep.
The Petaluma man, who was battling colon cancer, died last Monday at home. He was 79.
Fitzgerald was an engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded Stanford Telecommunications, Inc., which developed GPS technology, including for the federal government.
“It was all classified, so he didn't really talk about it,” said his wife, Pat Fitzgerald.
Raised in Seattle, Peter Fitzgerald earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University and was hired by the Ford Motor Co. to help with aerodynamic designs and to develop GPS systems, his wife said.
Stanford Telecommunications grew out of that work. The company was later sold to Alcatel.
The sale gave Fitzgerald the freedom to change careers, travel and help others pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
In addition to raising sheep in Healdsburg, Fitzgerald established a business school in Estonia, and lectured and taught internationally.
“He just had a great curiosity about him,” his wife said.
As a boy, Peter Fitzgerald went fishing with his father at Orcas Island, which is the largest of the San Juan Islands in the northwestern corner of Washington state. Spurred by those memories, Fitzgerald bought a home on the island and he enjoyed spending time there, except he never was a great fan of all the rain.
He also enjoyed hiking, reading, skiing, playing bridge and sailing with his sons in San Francisco Bay.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a sister, Louise Flora of Bellevue, Wash., and five children: Peter Fitzgerald of Portola Valley; Joan Hill of San Carlos; Michael Fitzgerald of Alamo; Brian Fitzgerald of El Dorado Hills and Dan Fitzgerald of Tiburon.
He also is survived by his former wife, Claire Fitzgerald of Palo Alto.
A memorial service is planned for 2 to 5 p.m. on March 2 at the Petaluma Sheraton Hotel.
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