It was a long journey for both Susan Roentz and Austin L. Fitch.
Fitch was a Chicago Police motorcycle patrolman who was killed in 1914 when he swerved to avoid a piece of debris in the roadway and got into an accident.
On Thursday night, more than a century later, Fitch’s name was to be unveiled as the latest addition to the police Memorial Wall adjacent to Soldier Field that bears the names of Chicago cops who died in the line of duty.
Susan Roentz will be there to represent the family. She’s Fitch’s great granddaughter.
However, she didn’t know that until eight months ago when Roentz, who was adopted, found relatives on her father’s side of the family using ancestry.com.
Roentz, who lives downstate in Granite City, stayed up all night before cold calling a brother in Michigan. The two have since become close and shared many details about their lives.
When she learned about her great grandfather, she was fascinated.
Family lore maintains that Fitch, who was 34 and married with five or six kids, was chasing bank robbers when he crashed his motorcycle and died.
Roentz wanted to know more, so in July she reached out to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation to see if they could provide any more information about his life.
Dawn Dolan, an employee at the Foundation who fielded her inquiry was confused.
“Didn’t you provide the Fitch name for our researchers to look into to see if it should go on the wall?” she asked.
“No, this is my first contact with you guys,” Roentz said.
“That’s a really strange coincidence, I guess one of our researchers must have been looking into your great grandfather’s death, because our executive board is set to vote on whether or not his name should
go on our Memorial Wall at the next meeting.”
The timing must have been “Officer Fitch talking,” one board member commented.
“I kind of feel like it was meant to be,” Roentz said. “The timing was just right.”