PORTLAND — Joseph A. Fortunato, 69, known by most folks as Joe, died at Maine Medical Center on Saturday, Feb. 19,  with his wife and family by his side.

He was born on June 21, 1941, in Lewiston, one of three sons born to John A. and Anna (Gahagan) Fortunato Sr. He attended St. Patrick’s Grammar School and graduated with the Class of 1959 from Lewiston High School. His family and church built his foundation of working hard, treating people with respect and being fair and kind in all of his business dealings. He was a family man who was deeply proud of his children and delighted with his grandchildren.

It was during his college days that he was called to serve in the Army National Guard during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Upon his discharge, he entered the business world and with his natural charm and genuine interest in people, he became a salesman at Benoit’s, where he served for 25 years.

Later, fulfilling his dream of having a big-and-tall store, he managed Green Mountain Big & Tall in South Portland for 10 years. He enjoyed helping folks buy the right suit, when most of his clientele had not worn a suit in years. He had a good eye for detail and always listened to their needs and matched the clothing to fit any occasion.

He enjoyed taking classes in Portland for ballroom dancing. It was a night to remember, for as he danced with another fine lady, his eyes wandered over to his future wife and soul mate, Linda. They were both smitten with one another and shared 18 years together.

Joe then worked right along with Linda in her real estate business, Abstracts & Closing. But his true passion, antiquarianism, manifested into The Old Book Room, his roadside bookstore, which he operated for over 10 years in front of their home in south Waterboro. He would watch for customers from his living-room window and remark, “Got a live one!” and then head out to make a new friend.

In 2003, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and eventually became homebound. He played a ferocious game of online Scrabble and focused solely on his true passion of books. His disability pushed him to convince other friends to go dumpster diving, yard or library sale perusing for what he called “nuggets” — that special book that gave him such joy! MS may have taken his mobility, but never the spirit that always touched so many lives.

He was a man of integrity, wisdom, always smiling, and could tease people without being critical or hurtful. When you hear Frank Sinatra on the radio — remember Joe lived his life surrounded by people who loved him.

He is lovingly survived by his wife, Linda (Milner) Fortunato of south Waterboro; one son, Timothy Fortunato of Buxton; two daughters, Lisa Fortunato and husband, Marc Blanchette, of Lewiston and Angela Cyr and husband, Mark, of Greene; a stepson, Michael Fraser of Beverly, Mass.; three grandchildren, Anthony and Garrett Fortunato and Connor Cyr; and his two brothers, John Fortunato of Minot and Michael Fortunato of Sidney.

To leave a message of condolence for the family, please visit www.autumngreenfuneralhome.com.

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