By SHERIDAN CYR
Southington lost a beloved member of its community this holiday season. E. Richard “Dick” Fortunato, 88, died at home on Saturday, Dec. 16, surrounded by family. Members of the community and family reflected on their memories and experiences with Fortunato. In his 88 years, he touched the hearts of many.
“His motivators were to enlighten and inspire. Without guilt or drama, he made it clear that we needed to be the best we could be,” said Vince Fortunato, one of Dick’s five sons. “He taught us to be proud and confident, but never arrogant or pretentious. He instilled in us character, integrity and strength.”
Vince said his father led by example and demonstrated his expectations rather than voicing them—a characteristic that became a guiding principle in the family for each generation that followed. Fortunato grew up in a privileged family despite the depression, and that set the foundation for his community service.
“Dick and his younger siblings knew that they were more fortunate than others,” said his son. “The lesson was to be kind, compassionate and generous, and never, ever flaunt the trappings of success—a lesson and philosophy he carried his whole life.”
His granddaughter, Lindsey Fortunato Todisco, said that her grandfather made a sure point to attend every little league game, chorus concert, school play and award ceremony that his grandchildren were in.
“He taught us to live our family values every day,” she said. “He was full of wisdom, the kind that’s gleaned from years of experience, and observations. He was happy to share his wisdom with me anytime, especially when I needed it most.”
Todisco said her grandfather was the “go-to” guy. He never disappointed anyone and always found the good in others. He sought to help others through difficulty and challenges, she said.
Dick Fortunato served many roles throughout his life. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a student of Georgetown University and a graduate of New York University. He served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps during the Korean War.
He worked for over 20 years at Seiko Corporation, and was a national vice president of sales and marketing. “Indeed he was a salesman, but he only sold things or ideas about which he was passionate,” said his son, Vince. “He knew the difference between persuasion and intimidation.”
Fortunato was a parishioner at St. Dominic Church. He was actively involved in Southington Community Services, Bread for Life (BFL), STEPS and The United Way of Southington. He taught classes at the Calendar House and was a member and fourth degree knight of the Knights of Columbus Isabella Council 15 and the American Legion Kiltonic Post 72.
“Dick was a special person who led with his heart,” said BFL executive director Donna Ayer. “He was passionate about making the world better and his actions showed this.”
Ayer said he always had the time to talk to you. He never rushed you. He listened intently and asked questions. “He always had a kind word and encouraging comment to share. He leaves a legacy of giving and kindness.”
Executive director of the United Way, Jack Eisenmann, recalled that Dick Fortunato was one of the first people to reach out to him when he first became the director.
“He was nothing but supportive from day one, and he was always interested in helping our community,” said Eisenmann. “Dick was a treasure to our community, and a true resident of Southington.”
In addition to his impressive resume, Fortunato was a passionate writer. He ran a blog, “Appleseed,” that served to keep Southington updated on local news and happenings, with a few personal writings and observations sprinkled throughout.
On July 19, Dick posted a blog piece, “Enjoying Summer’s Happiest Times,” reflecting on a family party that celebrated Father’s Day and his birthday. His children and grandchildren had gathered for a day of swimming in the pool, lounging on the deck and enjoying a summer picnic.
“Well, the food was absolutely superb, but the best was yet to come when another parade of gifts made their way to the table during coffee and simply luscious desserts. All this careful planning for Grandma Grace and me to celebrate a man of as many years as the keyboard on a grand piano!” Fortunato wrote in his post.
“But the real clincher for me that day was the reading of personal expressions and appreciation and love of each family member,” Fortunato wrote. “I loved it and they loved doing it. I sailed home that evening on a white cloud.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.