Flight 53 Last Flights - In Memoriam
Robert William Fortnam(1922 – 2017)
Robert William Fortnam passed away peacefully, at age 94, in Concord, Tuesday August 1, 2017. Born on Aug. 15, 1922, Bob was the oldest of the four sons of William and Olive Fortnam, growing up in Wollaston, Mass.
After the start of World War II, Bob joined the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1942 as an Aviation Mechanic later becoming a pilot and flying the B-17 Bomber, AKA the “Flying Fortress”. He was part of the 305th Bomb Group. In October 1943 he was shot down over Holland. After a successful crash landing, he and his crew were captured by the Germans and sent to Luft Stalag III in Germany. He remained as POW for 18 months until liberated in April 1945. In 2011, he was awarded the “Air Medal” by the U.S. military for “outstanding airmanship, displayed under extremely hazardous conditions”.
In 1949, Bob earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from UNH. He married Marion L. Johnson in 1945, settled in Nashua and raised five children. He worked for Nashua Corporation, Baker Chocolate and Austin Gordon Design. He
maintained a flying career in the USAF Reserve, attained rank of Colonel, and continued flying USAF missions all over the world for many years.
As a civilian pilot, he became a flight instructor at Boire field in Nashua, having taught many pilots to fly including his three sons. He was an active member and officer of the NH Flying Association. He was an active member of The Masonic Temple, United Flying Octogenarians, Daedalians, MOAA, QB, the VA POW group, and the 305th Bomb group. He was passionate about the NH Aviation Museum in Manchester, where he was a docent /volunteer and enjoyed giving tours and talks. Bob received the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award which recognizes pilots who have demonstrated “professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 years or more”. Bob flew for 71 years!
After losing Marion in 1993, he married Janet Witham in 1996 and they have enjoyed 21 years together. He is survived by his wife, Janet (Witham) Fortnam; brother, Richard Fortnam of Hilliard, Ohio; five children, Douglas
and Deanne Fortnam of Nashua, Carol and George Bertsimas of Pembroke, Bruce and Michelle Fortnam of Portola Valley, Calif., Kenneth and Annie Fortnam of Windham, Maine and Janice and Paul Ritter of Nashua; two step children, Glen and Pam Hamburg of Big Bear, Calif. and Laurie and Wayne Reichman of Castle Rock, Colo.; 10 grandchildren, six step-grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by brothers, George and Allan Fortnam
Bob is interned at Boscawen Veterans Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Aviation Museum of NH or the Blinded Veteran’s Association.