Obituary

Alan Jon Fortney

1939 - 2019

Alan Jon Fortney, writer, teacher, and Native American scholar, passed away peacefully on June 21, 2019 at home with his family at his side. Alan was born in November 1939 to Albin and Anita (Sodergren) Fortney as the second child of four.


His father Albin served with distinction as a Chaplain Major in the US Army during WWII at Pearl Harbor during the attack in December 1941, as part of the invasion forces of Normandy and as part of the Occupational Arm of the Liberations of Norway while Alan and his family lived with relatives in the midwest. Following the war, Albin Fortney was assigned as Post Chaplain in the Fort Lewis Army Base, WA. His family was relocated by the Army to Schweinfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria (1947-49) where Alan learned to speak German. Those two years profoundly affected hit future attitudes about people, cultures, languages and history.


During Alan’s formative years he developed a deep friendship with his two brothers and sister which sustained him through many moves associated with his father’s ministry in the midwest.


Alan graduated from Stoughton High School, Wisconsin in 1957 and from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1963 where he studied in preparation for a career as a Lutheran Minister like his father and maternal grandfather but switched to a degree in English with aspirations to be a journalist and writer instead.


During his time as a student he lived in Copenhagen, Denmark where he learned fluent Danish and explored Germany, France, and Spain by folk singing and writing a newspaper column about his travels. He fell in love with Denmark and remained fluent in Danish his entire life. While living in Europe he hitchhiked through Germany, France, and Spain folk singing and writing a column about his travels for the Courier Hub in Stoughton.


Alan started his Journalistic career as a cub reported for the Chicago City News Bureau and then as an editor at the New York Times (1964-71). While living in NYS he began a 50 year study of and love for all things Native American, but especially with as a spiritual relationship with the Earth.


He moved to Bennington to work as Director of Publications at Bennington College (1971-76). From 1976 to 1982 he worked as editor for Hemming Motor News and then Vermont Summer Magazine (Bennington Banner).


He taught journalism and Native American Philosophy at SVC (1988-93), writing at CCV (1993-96) and taught English at MAUHS until his retirement (SVSU 1994-2008). He also co-coached the fencing team and co-facilitated the Model UN while also earning his 4th Degree Black Belt in Okinawan Karate.


Once retired, Alan refocused on his devoted study of Native American history and philosophy. He was known among many local students for his tipi visits to schools. He published the book Go Light: Exploring the Tao of Native America while working tirelessly on multiple novels, a memoir, and plays.


Alan is survived by his wife and partner of 45 years Jill, daughter Rachael Fortney, Dana Point, CA; Son Kendall Fortney, Burlington VT, Brother Steven (Ruth), Stoughton WI, sister Anita (Bill) Harms, Muskegon, MI, Sister-in-Law Teo D’Alessio, Rockwall TX, Brother-in-Law Jeff (Sherrie) Anderson, Brother-in-Law Greg Anderson Roseburg OR, Sister-in-law Judi (Robert) Thompson, Cheektowaga, NY and Brother-in-Law Andrew B. Andersons III, Washington D.C. and numberiousn nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends. He was predeceased by his parents, brother Kendall Thomas Fortney (US Army, Vietnam, 1968), father-in-law, mother-in-law, and Bill Laurane D’Alessio.


There will be a private memorial service and burial. Donation in Alan’s name may be made to VNA-Hospice and the Bennington Rescue Squad. Cremation arrangements by E.P. Mahar and Son Funeral Home.