Joe Fortunato an inspiration, role model

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I was elated when I read The Natchez Democrat on Friday and saw where my friend and our own Joe Fortunato was honored during his lifetime with a highway named after him in his hometown of Mingo Junction, Ohio.

My mind goes back in time to Joe being at Mississippi State University and then playing for the bad boys of the Chicago Bears. He was one of my favorite players, along with Hugh Green, who played for the University of Pittsburgh and then on to the pros. You may not know this but Dr. J.R. Todd Jr. and myself played football in college with the mighty Tougaloo Southern Christian College team. We had the opportunity to play against pros such as Elizah Pitts, of Philader Smith College, who later played for the Green Bay Packers. So you see we know what it’s like to rub elbows with the “Big Dogs.”

Joe and I normally meet at our water hole, the Natchez Post Office. We share moments and still talk about sports, who’s doing what, who’s going to win. I have never met a more friendly and kind-hearted person, one who has always showed me favor and greeted me with a smile, firm handshake and sometimes with a body blow.

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Joe Fortunato, I am not the spokesperson for our community, but on behalf of all of us who really know you, thanks for being an inspiration and a role model. Thanks for not leaving Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, and thanks for being you. Accolades and kudos to a gentle giant. Enjoy.

George F. West Jr.

Natchez residen