Ferdinand (Fred) Fortuno fell asleep in death on January 8, 2024, at his home overlooking San Juan Valley. His loving wife of 43 years was by his side together with their daughters and sons-in-law.
Fred had a great sense of humor and loved laughing with friends and family. He was always ready to help others and quick to show hospitality. He taught by example how to be generous and showed the truth of Jesus’ words, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” He could cook a meal from whatever he found in the fridge and loved talking story with anyone he met. He was a talented guitar player, often starting his day playing songs he made up as he went.
Born February 1, 1953 in Honolulu, Hawaii Fred was the second child of Ropino and Erika and baby brother of five year old Theresa. The family lived in Wahiawa until he was two when Ropino requested a transfer to an army base in Germany to be closer to Erika’s family. As a military family his childhood was spent in Germany, Washington State and a few other states in between. He was a happy child, especially living in Germany, where with his parents and relatives he learned to love nature and outdoor activities, such as hiking, picking bouquets of meadow flowers for his Oma's kitchen table, foraging for mushrooms with his Opa and discovering a hunter's stand.
After high school Fred worked as a commercial fisherman from Alaska to South America. In pursuit of his seaman’s papers, he enlisted in the United States Navy and ended up seeing the world.
In 1973 as a fisherman in Alaska he began his search to know God- a search that continued for several years. He met Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1979 and found the answers he was looking for by means of a thorough study of the Bible. Always a fisherman at heart, he was touched by what Jesus said to some of his disciples: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In 1980 he was baptized and became an ordained minister, dedicating the rest of his life to helping others learn about Jehovah God.
That year he also moved to Friday Harbor and met Nancy Pearson when she moved there in the same month. They quickly fell in love and were married on November 8, 1980.
In the following years he became the Papa of Erica and Lisa, sharing his love of boats, fishing, smoking salmon and enjoying nature. Fred started cleaning windows when Erica was a baby and became well known in the islands keeping the beautiful views clear. He instilled a strong work ethic in his girls by his example and teaching them how to work. They have good memories of doing a cleaning job as a family on Monday evenings and going out to dinner at Vic’s afterwards.
Fred was resourceful, always looking for ways to provide for his family including catching fish and crab or taking down dead trees in exchange for the firewood. Summer meant long days cleaning windows, but he was often ready to take the girls for a swim at Lakedale to finish the day.
Besides caring for his family, Fred loved the volunteer work he did as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was involved in the construction of many Kingdom Halls throughout Western Washington, worked as a temporary volunteer once in New York and loved any opportunity he had to share the good news from the Bible with others.
He also served the community as a volunteer fireman. Living close to the station meant he was usually the first one there to get the truck ready to go. Even a broken ankle couldn’t keep him down. He’d get to the station to have the truck ready for the other guys to take off once they arrived. He just loved giving his all to whatever work was in front of him.
Fred was always eager to keep learning and growing in his abilities. A dream that became a reality was getting his private pilot’s license and owning his own plane. Fred loved the freedom his Piper Tri-Pacer gave him to take his family for a quick trip to Bellingham or to visit friends on the outer islands for Bible discussions.
The family moved to Naalehu, Hawaii in 2000 where Fred especially enjoyed swimming in the ocean and eating poke. In 2005 Fred and Nancy returned to the San Juans where he built a beautiful house for them on Lopez. They always wanted a house with a view though, so they ended up back in Friday Harbor in 2008.
Even as his health declined Fred was always busy. He never lost his enjoyment of working whether it was completing garden projects, feeding the birds or doing the dishes. He never stopped being a source of encouragement for his family, congregation and friends.
Fred is survived by his wife Nancy; daughters Erica Connor and her husband Anthony; Lisa Highley and her husband Aaron; sister Theresa Hart and her husband Matt; niece Jennifer Robinson, her husband Brent and their children Kyle and Andrea.
The family would like to thank the whole team at Hospice of the Northwest for their kind care of such a unique patient.
A Memorial Service is planned for 12 noon on Saturday, January 27th at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Friday Harbor.