RAYMOND – Norman Fortin was a well-respected businessman who often was sought for business advice.

“He just loved working, consulting, being a leader, a friend, a guide,” said his wife, Gail Fortin.

Mr. Fortin died Wednesday. He was 71.

Gem Automotive Enterprises was born because Mr. Fortin saw a “wonderful business opportunity” in the area, his wife said.

Doing business as Ability Radiator Repair in South Portland, he ran the company for 26 years, expanding it from a tiny shop to five locations, she said. His son, Scot Fortin, has taken over the operation for him.

During the 1960s, Mr. Fortin drove a stock car at Oxford Plains Speedway. He took pride in the Ford he drove, with the number 98 on the side, said his daughter, Lorna Weber.

His wife said he was well known on the small racetracks in the state.

“True to his personality, he was not trying to be the star, but the buddy, the friend to the other race car drivers,” she said.

The couple celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary Monday. Gail Fortin remembers how her husband always told her that when they met, “the fairy dust had been sprinkled” and he fell in love with her at first sight.

“He fell in love with me, and he’s told me he’s never stopped loving me,” she said. “We truly just lived for each other.”

“She’s been attached to him at the hip for the past 35 years,” Weber said.

Together, they volunteered with the Thornton Heights Lions Club. Mr. Fortin was president of the club from 1994 to 1996. Giving back to the community, he spent time cleaning up leaves along streets and cooking in the lunch wagon as a fundraiser for the club.

“He’d cook and have a ball with all the people,” his wife said.

The couple traveled extensively in recent years. His wife said their favorite place was St. Martin. When she retired in 2003, they hooked up a fifth-wheel trailer and explored this country.

“He just wanted to experience life to his fullest,” his daughter said.

The couple would travel down the East Coast, then across the country to Arizona, his wife said. They did that for three winters.

“The last year we went out West, when we came home he sat down in his chair and looked out the window,” said his wife. He told her at that moment that he was done traveling.

“He wanted to be home,” she said, and he would putter around the house.

One of his favorite pastimes was sitting in his garage and looking up at the house while smoking a good cigar, his wife said.

“He wasn’t a heavy smoker or anything, but he loved a good cigar,” she said.

“A good cigar and a good laugh,” his daughter added.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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