Clem H. Fortner 1917 – 2008, RIP

ted | the fam | Friday, March 14th, 2008

I got a phone call this morning just after my alarm went off. I knew why I was being called as soon as the phone rang.

My Grandfather died early this morning.

Finally, I think, he will be at peace. He had been through several surgeries, mystery symptoms, hospitalizations, tests, treatments, medications, interventions and other wonders of medical technology in the past five months until he finally decided he was tired of all that crap and opted to enter hospice care a few weeks ago. My cousin Christie summed it up very nicely by saying, “He has had 90 years, and been hale and healthy through most of them. We have been fabulously lucky to have had that time with him. And I am grateful.”

I’m grateful, too.

He was a magician, a ventriloquist, a mentalist, an amateur radio operator, helped put out forest fires in Oregon for the Civilian Conservation Corps, an Atlanta policeman, a private detective in the Fulton County Public Defender’s office, an ornery ol’ cuss and one of the wittiest men I’ve ever known. He even had a girlfriend – his sweet thing, Miss Jean. They used to get together to have dinner at his house and invariably would wind up grilling ribeyes and drinking Evan Williams Green Label bourbon. Later that night he’d call me up, two sheets to the wind, start singing a bar of “Sweet Fern” and telling jokes.

He is being cremated and in a few weeks, everyone will get together for a memorial service and a brunch where we’ll share stories and memories of him as a celebration of his life. Afterwards I’ll probably head back to my brother’s house and have dinner there. I have a feeling ribeyes and bourbon will be on the menu.

Big Daddy, as we called him, frequently told my brother and I that he wanted to live to be 110 and die in a whorehouse fight from a jealous husband. I’d like to think he’s going to get the next twenty years to warm up. So, rest in peace, Big Daddy, K4PKQ – silent key.

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