What a proud moment it was for me and Donny this weekend. Our daughter being inducted into a Hall of Fame...just like her dad was! Her talents were recognized by her peers...what an honor!
She was introduced first by Pauly then by Jamie. Here are some excerpts from the introduction:
"On the field, Fort had effortless talent. Her God-given size and hand-eye coordination meant she rarely dropped a ball. Starting her career at number 8, she eventually moved to lock and embraced life in the tight 5. She was powerful and learned solid technique, serving as a lifter in one of the most beautiful lineouts in all the Midwest! In college she was well known for the "Fortener Fake" and perfected her dummy pass over the years. As her skills came together, she received an invitation to play for the Ohio Select Side and as a starter, helped the team roll to a number of tournament victories.
Although Fort was certainly competitive, she never took herself or rugby too seriously which is what made her such a fantastic teammate. She was always positive, always optimistic, ALWAYS funny, and generally kind, even as she delivered crushing stiff-arms.
She helped lead Cincy-Dayton to 2 Midwest Championships and appeared in all 3 National Championships"
"Playing second row as Fort did is a thankless job...and one of the most under appreciated positions on the field. You won't lead the team in tries or tackles. You don't win bitch of the pitch or man of the match. You are placed in a ridiculous and laughable position in the scrum and generally only hear about the score off the set piece. All of this being said, if you ask a prop about their second row, you will hear a list of what the second does right. You hear stats like strong, solid, tough.
It is the last three characteristics that made me nominate Melissa. Fort was all of these things in spades.
She made good decisions around the pitch and her teammates were well aware of her presence.
She continued to fight to play while possessing the most severe excuse I've been around to no longer dress for the game. She wanted a jersey, and to be on the field, so she did, long after she was told she couldn't."
Strong, solid, touch, brave, generally kind with a stiff arm, carries the team spirit, inspires her club years beyond her prime to be better. I think we can all agree, Fort is a Hall of Fame Kelt."
We are so grateful that she was recognized...she LOVED rugby and she loved the Kelts. She would be embarrassed for sure, and humbled to be recognized with this honor.
I am embarrassed to admit that after 20 years, I still don't know the game as I should. She would get so angry (not really) with me that she had to explain it over and over. And when I would forget someone's name she would roll her eyes "MOM. How many times to I have to tell you..." I am trying to do better understanding the game (I think I do) and remembering names. She would be proud of me. But not as proud as we are of her.
It's not just the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but her choice of friends...
I'm sure she knew that her rugby family would stay in touch and always be there for us. They stand by their motto "Once a Kelt, ALWAYS a Kelt." Somehow, we are lucky enough to be part of this family. They love us like they loved her. And the feeling is mutual.
After the ceremony, the celebration continued with a social at Haps. We heard new stories about Fort. We love that.
I met Hooky - he told me about the time he was getting ready to go into the game and he had forgotten to take his wedding ring off. He was looking for the bag to put it in and couldn't find it. Fort was standing there and he went to hand it to her. Before he could ask her to hold it for him, she said "YES HOOKY! A thousand times YES!" She was so good at coming up with funny responses spontaneously. Hooky said he thinks of that whenever he thinks of Fort. I'm sure it makes him smile like it made ME smile!
We talked to Tex (also a Hall of Famer) for a long time. One of the things she told us was that Fort came to visit her the night of the wake (the viewing). In the dream (visit) she said "Fort, what are you doing? You're dead." Melissa said "I know. I have a lot of people to thank." and then she was gone. That was no surprise to us. Melissa was so good about writing thank-you's (even if they were a year later). Only this time she couldn't write, so she visited.
Donny & I both talked to Amy for a long time too...she is the new owner of Fort's car. She couldn't say enough what an impact Melissa made on her life. It was so nice to talk to Amy too.
I talked to several players that never knew her, but knew all ABOUT her. We also met several players who have received the Kelts Fort Award. She will never be forgotten. Even after we are gone.
Pauly posted a thank you the next day and his comment said something about being "drunk & stupid"... I don't remember the whole post, but I can identify. I had a few shots and some beers (Donny was the designated driver and Jen was taking care of me) so I don't remember every story that was told - but I do remember meeting Scott Blackburn (who I see at EVERY fundraiser, he ALWAYS wears his green FORT shirt, and I always say "do I know you? Have we met?" - just like Fort accused me - I forget things. But not Scott anymore. :) And a couple of others whose names I will not forget...Erin, Katie, Jamie, DJ, Magic...thank you all for sharing your stories and listening to me. Even if I didn't make sense sometimes.
Wish I had new photos to share, but being this is a rugby post, I need to post some rugby pics...
Congratulations FORT & Pauly!