I didn’t know Betty Fortino very well – certainly not as well as her family, friends, and colleagues. We spoke briefly every couple weeks when I was covering Waterford, but in addition to her being a reliable and friendly source on any number of issues during my few stints on that beat between 2006-07 and in 2010 before I became the assistant editor, she did something for me even more important: She helped me register to vote.
I had just moved back to Waterford from Alabama and started working before I even had everything in my apartment unpacked (although my voter registration card from Alabama was tacked to my fridge). So while I was out to pick up a Board of Trustees packet my first week back on the job, I pulled her aside as she was walking in the bullpen that is the Waterford Clerk’s Office. I re-introduced myself and we exchanged some pleasantries.
“Hey Betty, how have you been? Kirk from the Spinal Column.”
“I’ve been well, Kirk. I hope you are.”
“So, I’m back in the area and I need to re-register to vote here in Waterford again. Can you help me?”
“Of course. I’d be happy to help.”
So I re-registered, and within a few days, I had my Michigan voter registration proudly tacked to my Michigan fridge in my Michigan apartment with my Michigan-via-Nashville-via-Alabama cat (long story) chilling in my lap.
That was last June, about six weeks before the primary elections. I spent the evening that I got the card boning up on the candidates, literally making a list of pros and cons about each one I would be considering in the coming month-and-a-half. And pretty much a year to the day after I asked her to help me with re-registering to vote in Michigan, Betty passed away.
She was 75. She was diminutive in size but larger than life when it came to devoting herself to others. And by all accounts, she was doing what she loved when she helped me register again a year ago. And I’m sure somewhere, wherever that may be, Betty Fortino is helping others the exactly the same way she helped people here in Waterford and Oakland County, gracefully and generously assisting them through the turnstiles of wherever it is that everyone is going.
So there it is. Thanks, Betty, for all the work you’ve done over the years. My condolences to all who knew her, loved her, and called her a friend, colleague, or part of their family. She will be missed.