Waterford Township is mourning the loss of long-time public servant Betty Fortino, who was known for her strong personality, living life to the fullest, and her dedication to the community.
Fortino, who served as township clerk since 1986, died Saturday, June 18. She was 75.
“It’s a sad day in Waterford. She’ll be sorely missed,” said Township Supervisor Carl Solden. “Betty was an intelligent, professional and compassionate individual. She cared and spoke a lot about her children and grandchildren. We will miss her dearly.”
Deputy Clerk Kari Vlaeminck worked alongside Fortino for over 12 years. She said it’s difficult to envision the workplace without her.
“She was an amazing person to work for,” Vlaeminck said. “She was so supportive of her family and all of us. My daughter has special needs and Betty prayed for her every day. You don’t meet people like Betty too often in a lifetime.”
Always community-minded, Fortino served on the Waterford Youth Assistance Board and chaired the annual Youth Recognition Night event.
“She took the event over because it was going to be cut, so she picked it up and organized it for the past six years,” said Christie Kay, departmental aide for Waterford Parks and Recreation and a Youth Assistance volunteer. “She was so passionate about our youth.”
Kay recalls Fortino’s pride in the community’s youth when she called off each one’s name for their individual contribution to society, including raking leaves for the elderly and helping the homeless.
“You could just see the pride on her face,” Kay said. “She made each of them feel like this was their moment.”
Former Deputy Clerk Karen MacIntosh, who worked with Fortino for 24 years, characterized Fortino as a woman with strong convictions.
“Betty was a person of integrity who had a strong faith in God. I think that’s why she wasn’t afraid of anything or anybody — because of her faith,” MacIntosh said.
MacIntosh added that over the years Fortino’s due diligence on the job benefited Waterford residents through implementation of cost efficiencies.
“People will never know the millions she saved them,” MacIntosh said. “She was very frugal and found ways to save — she was always fiscally responsible. She implemented centralized purchasing that saved $500,000 in the first year alone.”
Fortino was born and raised in Pontiac and started working at the family business, Felice’s Quality Market, at the age of 5. She graduated early from Pontiac High School, when she was 16-years-old, and went on to Eastern Michigan University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree.
Fortino was active in the community as a business owner. In addition to her public service in the township, she co-owned Iron City Gym, Fortino’s Flowers and Gifts, and Fortino’s Steak House. She was also the sole proprietor and operator of Betty’s Just Good Food.
“She was smart, but also had good business sense,” MacIntosh said. “Betty had the solution while everyone else was still talking about the problem. ”
Fortino’s culinary expertise gained a following in the community. She was especially known for her homemade cakes.
“On each of our birthdays, she would bring in one of her cakes with her amazing homemade frosting,” Vlaeminck said.
Prior to her service as clerk, Fortino served as an Oakland County commissioner from 1974 to 1986. She was a founding member of St. Benedict Catholic Church, where a mass for Fortino is planned for today, Wednesday, June 22, at 11 a.m.
Fortino is survived by her three children and six grandchildren.
Her passing will leave a significant void in the township.
“Everything she did on the job was to benefit the community,” Solden said.
The Waterford Township board has 45 days to approve an appointment to fill Fortino’s position and finish out the rest of her elected term, which expires on Nov. 20, 2012.
“She was so compassionate about the youth, her staff and her community that played such a large role in her life. She was such a wonderful person,” Kay said.