FORTNA Rita Jo
was born on February 1, 1945, in Danville, Illinois, and raised on a farm in nearby Catlin, Illinois. She was the only child of Lloyd and Ruth Elmore. Her family attended Fairview Methodist Church, and in her teen years she became the church pianist. God was preparing her even then for her future ministry. She and her husband Joe met at the University of Illinois and were married in Quantico, Virginia, where Joe was in Marine Officer School. After Joe’s service in the Marine Corps, he went to work for Kraft Foods and the family (now including Becky) moved to northern Illinois. They began attending a newly planted church and became charter members of Lena Baptist Church near Rockford, Illinois. It was there that Joe came to know the Lord as his Savior. A year later (in 1969) the family (now including Karen) moved to Hoopeston, Illinois, and began attending the First Baptist Church. It was there in the fall of 1970 that Rita accepted Christ as her personal Savior. The four years in Hoopeston, under the guidance of Pastor Jack Wagoner, were times of great opportunity for service and growth in the Lord. Here Rita was again able to use her talent for piano and her special gift for encouraging others. God called Joe and Rita into pastoral ministry in 1973 and the family (now including Jeff) moved to Winona Lake, Indiana. While Joe was attending Grace Seminary, Rita drove a school bus for Warsaw Christian School and nurtured the family. During those years, she and Joe lead the junior church program at the nearby Burr Oak Baptist Church. During the following 40 years of ministry in three different churches, Rita continued to serve the Lord as church pianist. She was an ideal pastor’s wife; ready for any challenge. From 1976 to 1983, the family lived in St. Joseph, Michigan, where Joe pastored the North Lincoln Baptist Church. Rita raised and nurtured the family, led the women’s soul-winning ministry, and served as a Sunday School bus captain and driver. The family moved to the Pontiac area in 1984 where Rita and Joe served at Emmanuel Baptist Church and Midwestern Baptist College. With the children grown, Rita continued her education as a tax preparer and bookkeeper and served as church secretary for Dr. Malone and Dr. Holman. In 1993, Rita and Joe moved to Urbana, Ohio, where Joe pastored the Grace Baptist Church. Rita was the church pianist and counselor and friend to the women of the church. They returned to the Pontiac area in 2004 to serve once again at Midwestern. At Midwestern Baptist College, she served as treasurer of the college. She was ever the friend of the students; they always found her ready to listen, ready to laugh and encourage them. Through the years she continued to be a faithful witness for Christ and a good friend and counselor to many, both in the church and out. Her cheerful attitude and practical advice were an encouragement to so many. She has left a multitude of friends around the country and indeed the world. Rita is the beloved wife of Joe; loving mother of Becky (Dan) Gilbert, Karen Fortna and Jeff Fortna; caring grandmother of Alex (Paige) Gilbert.
Tuesday at church 4:00 p.m. until the 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 6:30 p.m. at Dixie Baptist Church 8585 Dixie Highway, Clarkston, MI.
Memorial contributions suggested to Maranatha Village, 11 Maranatha Boulevard, Sebring, FL 33870
Karen & Ron Cole
Thank you to the Fortna family. We served under their ministry in St. Joseph, Michigan and they were always an encouragement. Prayers for comfort only God can give during these times.
Phil and Betty Neumann
Sending our deepest sympathy and prayers to the Fortna Family. We certainly have fond memories of Rita. She was one great Christian lady. It was our privilege to minister with the Fortnas in Hoopeston. We always looked forward to the times when our paths would cross after the both of us left Hoopeston.
I only got to meet Mrs. Fortna a handful of times, but she was a beautiful woman and a great servant of God. She will be dearly missed.
Mrs Fortna I remember was always so very kind and caring towards me. She was always a very gracious and friend to everyone. My love goes out towards each of her family. Love you all, Stacy Pledger
Karen and Family, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. I pray that your faith, memories and God's peace will sustain you in the days ahead.
She was a very dear sweet lady. She will be missed. Our loss but heavens gain.
Much love and many prayers to the dear family.
Dr. Fortna & Family,
It is with profound sadness that I hear of the passing of Mrs. Fortna.
She was a huge encouragement to many of us at Midwestern. I remember a number of times she invited a number of dorm students into her home on Saturday evenings to watch sports games, or when land forces invaded Iraq during desert storm. Both she and Dr. Fortna loved us so much, and we, as students loved them.
Dr. Fortna, Becky and Jeff. You are and will continue to be in our prayers.
Jim &Ann Bradford
We are so sorry to hear about your Mom..I loved sitting and talking to her at BHF..... I love and miss you all and sending hugs ,, Ann
Tonya Capela (Cordle)
My deepest sympathies for your loss. She's such a special godly lady. She taught me so much about being a Christian woman. Until we meet again.
I was so sad to hear of such a great lady passing. My prayers are with the family.
Pastor, we are so saddened to learn of Rita's home going. We think of both of you often. Enjoyed her friendship, contagious laugh, and asking how our "brats" were doing. Floyd & I, Colby & Phil are praying for you & the family.
Dr. Rich Zawadzki
I'm so very sorry that death has parted you and your beloved Rita.
May "the God of all comfort.." wrap Hos loving arms around you and your entire grief-stricken family.
Loomis Park Baptist Church
Janna (Metz) Hayes
Dear Joe, Becky, Karen, and Jeff, I was so sad to hear of Rita's passing, but rejoicing with you when thinking of her being with her Lord. Although your family's time in Hoopeston was relatively short, Rita's spirit and joy in the Lord was so impactful in my early years. We kids would play while the parents would play table games...and I so remember the impact of Joe's call into the ministry and Rita's excitement to follow and serve alongside Joe. All these years later, although we've lost touch as families, please know how much your wife's/mom's testimony lives on in all of us whose lives she touched. Please be assured of our prayers for comfort for you all. Sincerely in Christ, Jan (Metz) Hayes
My heart goes out to the Fortna family upon the loss of your beloved wife and mother. Becky has been my hairdresser for many years. My prayers are with you all. The Lord be with you in this trying time.
Willard Lantz and famiyew
Our prayers are with you and your family on the passing of your mother
Ron & Edie Todd
Brother Joe & Kids,
We were saddened to hear of your tremendous loss. Be assured of our prayers as Rita's blessed life is remembered by so many in the days ahead.
Ron & Edie Todd - Costa Rica
Dr. Baruch's Dental Office
Dear Fortna Family,
We send our condolences for your loss. Rita was a remarkably wonderful person and we will certainly miss her.
Dr. Baruch, Kristie, Nichole and Paraise
I am feeling the loss of Mrs. Fortna very deeply. I sure do love her and all of the Fortna family. She just has a way of making you feel special and loved. She is genuinely interested in people, and what a great friend she has been to my mom...I'm sure they are having a great time right now. She will certainly be incredibly missed here. Love to the Fortna family.
The Maurice Family in Ohio
Dear Pastor Fortna,
We are so heartbroken to learn of your incredible loss - we loved Mrs. Fortna so much! I have so missed her incredible hugs, and warm laughter. I know she wouldn't want us to be sad as she is in the presence of our Heavenly Father, but very sad knowing the impact this has on all who loved her.
The tremendous love she had for her family, her children and her precious grandson Alex was so clearly evident.
God bless you all and know that our love and prayers remain with you always.
Love from athe Maurice's,
Alex & Nikki
Brother Fortna You are in my prayers. You and your wife were such a blessing to me. You may not know it but I considered you and your wife as the family I wanted to pattern my family after. Your wife was a big part of that. We are serving in Texas pastoring and still working in Israel and the two of you are a big reason behind that. I can't thank you enough down here so I try when I see you both up yonder. Brother Jim