After being involved in the Denton community since 1970, 81-year-old Lloyd Fitzpatrick retired Friday from his duties volunteering with the Denton County Sheriff's Office as commander of its Operations Support Unit.
Fitzpatrick began teaching undergraduate and graduate students in biology at what was then North Texas State University in 1970, retired from UNT 44 years later. In 1990, the professor began volunteering with the sheriff's office. Almost three decades later, he has stepped down from his volunteer work.
"Have you ever gotten up and gotten in your car in the mornings and thought, 'God, this is an old clunker,' and you need to trade it in?" Fitzpatrick said. "Well, I woke up one morning thinking, 'I am an old clunker,' so I traded myself in and I retired."
Fitzpatrick taught middle schoolers and high schoolers when he received his undergraduate degree, and eventually decided to teach at the collegiate level and get his master's and Ph.D.
"When I graduated high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Throughout high school I worked at a pool as a lifeguard and manager," he said. "This guy came to the pool I worked at, driving a red Jaguar Roadster. We got to talking, and he was a geology major at Bowling Green [State] University. I said, 'Wow, that's not bad,' so I started out in geology and that was my undergrad."
During his time at the University of North Texas, Fitzpatrick met his second wife, Elizabeth, a speech pathologist, who he said supports his research and volunteering 110 percent.
"I'm from Arkansas and came to North Texas for school," Elizabeth Fitzpatrick said. " I did a work study in biology and saw [Lloyd], and that's all she wrote."
Encouraged by a friend and colleague from UNT who was already volunteering with the sheriff's office, Lloyd Fitzpatrick joined the law enforcement academy and commanded the Operations Support Unit.
Operations Support Unit deputies are licensed Texas peace officers commissioned by the sheriff to provide cost-effective professional law enforcement and crime prevention for the citizens of Denton County, according to the sheriff's office website. OSU deputies serve primarily as lead or second officers in street and lake patrol and warrant service/fugitive apprehension, but also in criminal investigations, Crime Stoppers, extradition/transport, special events, SWAT, mental health, bailiffs and on inter-agency task forces.
Fitzpatrick said he had a very successful research period, even being featured on the Today show, and a relatively low teaching load.
Over the years, he has conducted multiple studies on the habits off lizards, salamanders and other animals.
He taught courses ranging from "Principles of Ecology" to freshmen to a population ecology course for graduate students.
He would get a lot done for a few days and worked the rest with the sheriff's office. If it wasn't easy to do, he wouldn't have done it, he said.
"I worked about half time, and what I basically did was chase fugitives and do warrant services," Fitzpatrick said. "It would vary quite a bit. I would get a call at midnight about one of the top 10 most wanted persons."
In between being a professor and a sheriff's office volunteer, Fitzpatrick said he, Elizabeth and his three children from a previous marriage would partake in martial arts and running.
Other than working on gardening and landscaping with his wife, Lloyd Fitzpatrick said he doesn't know what he'll do next. His youngest daughter, Darby, recommended he start a blog with his thoughts about politics.
"People can get bigger, but not always wiser. People make mistakes — I don't like that word because people set up for what they want to do," Fitzpatrick said. "I think that's one thing I've learned over the years: Regardless of the setting, people are people. They make judgments and decisions that are not in their best interests."