There was an issue validating your request. Please try again later.

The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Called to Adventure

Posted by | March 29, 2023 | Filed under: Culture

On May 22, 1995, Lottie Fortune walked into the Laudholm Trust offices at the Alheim house and found herself in the middle of a birthday party. The gathering around the Laudholm round table was for Vicki Adams and Mort Mather, but it happened also to be Lotties birthday. And she thought What a welcome, they even knew it was my birthday!

For more than 20 years without fail, Lottie returned to our Laudholm offices to address envelopes by hand and stuff and seal them. She touched thousands of thank-you letters before they were mailed to donors. And we quickly developed a beloved ritual on Lottie days, stopping for tea and a sweet morsel around 2pm. Other volunteers came and went, always welcomed heartily by Lottie, who stayed on.

Family Life, Then to Wells

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Lottie grew up the third child of Polish immigrants in an eight-family house. Early on she dreamed of being an ice skater star. Or a Rockette. At Long Island University, taking a more practical route, she ended up majoring in physical education because she says with a laugh the line to sign up for that major was shorter.

She met her husband, John, at the university and loved doing things with his family. She was impressed that John helped with dinner by doing things like peeling potatoes. Lotties mother really wanted her to marry a nice Polish boy, so it took some doing to convince her that a nice Irish boy was going to be her new son-in-law.

Married in 1951, they lived at first in an apartment in her parents building. Lottie worked part-time phys ed jobs while managing the care of their three babies with her mothers help. With a masters in social work, John worked first for the New York City Health Department. After several years, he was offered a job with the Buffalo Health Department and the active family moved happily to the land of snow and skiing.

Always active, Lottie was teaching phys ed again. She loved all sportsbadminton, basketball, volleyball, you name it! But at the same time she was beginning to experience crippling pain. Doctor after doctor diagnosed arthritis, prescribed pills and told her she just had to take her medicine, do the exercises and bear it. She faithfully followed all their instructions, but she couldnt sleep, her stomach hurt all the time, and just getting in and out of a car was nearly impossible.

John and Lottie Fortune (center), their three daughters, and their dog.

After years of this, by pure chance, she picked up a book by a Chinese doctor whod had similar symptoms. He wrote that changing his diet had changed his life. Willing to try anything, Lottie became her own diet specialist and was astounded and overjoyed at the results. She could sleep! Her stomach settled down. She could get in and out of cars! In 1989, Lotties story was featured in the book I Love Life by Jerry Dahmen. He devoted an entire chapter to her: Resilience: Lottie Fortune.

The family moved several more times as John got better and better jobsto Marblehead for four years, then to Nashville where they delighted in living down the road from Johnny Cash.

Retiring in 1990, John and Lottie learned to play tennis and traveled, but after three years of retirement Lottie was itchy for a new adventure. An article about the Peace Corps prompted them to apply, hoping theyd get sent to Poland. But with nothing available there, they were assigned to the Solomon Islands. Not wild about hot, humid weather, but ever game for new experiences, they sold their house, stored furniture with their girls, and got a vast array of shots before journeying half a world away where they would live for two adventurous years.

Working with the natives, who spoke a kind of pidgin English, Lottie took charge of the nutrition and garden programs, teaching, and community development. The main foods eaten were slippery cabbage (like spinach) and wild sweet potatoes. The weather certainly took some getting used to. It was basically 90 degrees day and night and very humid. When Lottie and John received packages from home, she fondly remembers how they rationed themselves to just two M&Ms a night for dessert. They had to make them last.

In 1993, with their Peace Corps tour finished, they returned to the United States and bought a house on Quarry Road in Wells to be near family. Never two to sit quietly for long, they became very involved in Senior College, where John took the art courses and Lottie took everything else.

Discovering Laudholm

Still hungry for new experiences, Lottie interviewed with the volunteer coordinator at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. Her very first job here was taking charge of the garbage/recycling bins at the Laudholm Nature Craft Festival. Then she came to work for me in membership. In addition to her weekly work for me, Lottie organized the 100+ volunteer name cards for the annual crafts festival and worked the volunteer table on the weekend of the event. In later years, with her hip hurting, she still climbed the stairs to the second floor of the Visitor Center to keep her volunteer appointment. Whenever John would call her during this time, I chortled to hear his voice inquiring Can I please speak to the wife of my dreams?

Over the years Lottie shared her life with us even outside of Laudholm. She did her best to teach Tracy and me tennis. We laughed our way through an evening of dinner and mudslides at her house. I sang for her Sodality group and attended Lottie and Johns 50th joyful anniversary celebration. Lottie was always the most festive person at the many, many birthday parties and volunteer gatherings celebrated at Laudholm.

When asked if she had a favorite memory of volunteering at Laudholm, she says I just loved everything about it! And the feeling was completely mutual. Lottie was a wonderful volunteerdedicated, always ready to do more, able to find the fun in any job, eternally optimistic, and always open for festivity and adventure. You could say she was the volunteer of my dreams!

Lottie Fortune, long-time Laudholm Trust volunteer.

← View all Blog Posts