Fairfield Warde boys basketball coach Walter Fitzgerald was known for his helpful nature and love of kids.

Unfortunately the world lost both as Fitzgerald died Sunday night of brain cancer. He was 61.

"It's a shame," said Fairfield Ludlowe Athletic Director Dave Schulz, one of Fitzgerald's closest friends. "We lost a great man."

Fitzgerald was the long-time assistant and junior varsity basketball coach for Schulz at Fairfield High School. He also worked in Fairfield high Schools' co-op system, in which for students that live in the district but are unable to deal with the structure of a school day.

"He understood those kids and knew what made them tick," Schulz said. "He tried to make the most out of every kid he dealt with."

When Fairfield High School split to Ludlowe and Warde in 2005, Fitzgerald retired from his positions.

However, when Jeff Seganos stepped down as Warde's head coach in 2006, Fitzgerald came out of retirement and took over, starting his head coaching career. Fitzgerald lost his first 56 games as the Mustangs' coach before beating archrival Ludlowe on Feb. 10, 2009.

"He was always looked at the bright side," Farirfield Warde girls basketball coach Dave Danko said, "even when his teams weren't going very well."

Fitzgerald was diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 2006 and coached with the ailment throughout his tenure at Warde. He was the head coach of the Mustangs through the 2009-10 season, a year in which Warde went 9-12 and qualified for the Class L state tournament, Fitzgerald's first trip to the states as a head coach.

"He always dealt with adversity well," Warde Athletic Director Chris Manfredonia said. "He handled things with class and dignity."

Fitzgerald's condition worsened as the year progressed. He had been moved to a hospice in Branford, where he spent the final three weeks of his life. Schulz visited Fitzgerald often and knew that the end was near.

"It's a terrible way to go," Schulz said. "He's at peace now."

Services for Fitzgerald will take place at the Larson Funeral Home, 2496 North Ave., Bridgeport. The wake will be today from 4-8 p.m. The funeral will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at St. Anthony's Church, 149 South Pine Creek Road, Fairfield.