Nominated 2016. Lumberjack, Farmer, Machinist, Foundryman, Engineer, Inventor, Auto dealer.
A man with many interesting stories to tell is Theodore H. Fortnum, more commonly known by his friends as “Tim” so stated an article in a February 1961 issue of the Berlin Journal.
Tim was born August 28, 1874 on a farm at Green Lake center, the 9th child of an immigrant family who came to the U.S. from England. He attended a country school up to 8th grade but continued his love of learning with correspondence courses, reading, and life experiences.
Besides farm work, Tim spent winters in lumber camps and later on had lots of stories to share. In 1899 Tim came to Berlin to go into business with his father-in-law, Niels Johnson, who operated a foundry and machine shop. With Mr. Johnson’s instructions and a correspondence course, Tim became a very proficient machinist and engineer. Some of the work done by the shop was for the quarry and cranberry industries and the steamboats and dredges that traveled the Fox River. During his career as a machinist, he designed and built small gasoline engines for both farm and marine use including a 1 cylinder gas engine.
The advent of the automobile sparked Tim’s interest in cars. He sold his first car in 1909, a one cylinder Cadillac. In 1912 he became the agent for the Reo auto and then sold Chevrolet, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Liberty, Overland, Willys Knight and Whippet cars. In 1932 he became a Dodge dealer. In 1959 he was honored by Dodge for his 25 years of service.
Tim joined the Berlin Fire Department when he moved to Berlin. He served the department for 46 years and pioneered the change from horse-drawn fire equipment to its first motorized truck in 1916. He was the engineer for this truck and also operated the old steam fire engine.
Tim came out of machining retirement to help the war effort during World War II. He set up the machine shop to do work for Clintonville Four Wheel Drive and Fairchild Aircraft.
Mr. Fortnum was an enthusiastic civic leader. He was a charter member of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, served on the Green Lake County Board and on the Berlin City Council. In 1961 he retired from the Berlin Hospital Board of Directors, having served 42 years and was made an Honorary Life Member of the Board. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, a life member of the Order of Eastern Star, and a long time member of the Berlin Rotary.
He often told his family and employees:
It will take your whole life to build your reputation but you can lose it in 10 minutes.