Sunday, April 2, 2017


The definition of family according to

A basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not:...any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins:...

It's been an emotional roller coaster for the last couple of months.  Waiting for the Memorial for our son-in-law, John.  Johnny Mac.  Schmoopy.  Schmoops.  He went by a lot of names.  He was a son, brother, father, husband.  Son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle.  Nephew. Cousin.  Friend to many.

What I saw yesterday (and have known for a long time), was that John touched a lot of lives. His untimely, tragic death was a shock to everyone who knew and loved (loves) him.

The mass at St. Xavier Catholic Church in Cincinnati was a beautiful tribute to his life.  I think the message that we all walked away with was "we never get used to death."  Truer words were never spoken.

My brother died April 26, 1975.  I still talk about him and miss him.  Over 40 years.

My daughter died 8 years ago and I still grieve.  The tears are still there.  I never (will never) stop missing her.

And I feel the same about John.  Our son-in-law.  Really, another son to us. He was part of OUR family.   I hope he knew we felt that way about him.  We never said it out loud.  We never told him that.  He was really Nick's brother, his only sibling after Melissa died.  I hope he knew how much we loved him.

I hope he knew how much he was loved by everyone who knew him.  We heard a lot of J Mac stories yesterday at Rhinegeist and then at Haps.

Probably my favorite John story was when they had their annual Chili Cook-Off.  Donny and I were invited and I made White Chicken Chili.  Now, I never professed to be a good cook (not like my mom, or his mom, or HIM), but I didn't think my chili was THAT bad.    But I guess it was.  They had several different awards - Best Chili, Hottest Chili, and Worst Chili. And trophies to go with them.  I just remember how excited he was to give that last trophy...for the WORST CHILI.  And how SURPRISED I was that is was MY chili!  He thought it was SO funny - and so did Melissa.  Me,  not so much.  But I can laugh about it now, because I can admit that I am probably the worst cook around.  I just don't LIKE to cook.  But Johnny Mac did.  (Seagal even made one of J Mac's favorite recipes for the reception yesterday!)

John was a GREAT cook.  He LOVED to cook.  Melissa was just like her mother...didn't like to cook and didn't WANT to cook.  But she tried.  She made a frozen pizza once and unknowingly put the rack in upside down (so the edge of the back of the rack was pointing down instead of up).  When she went to pull the rack out, the pizza slid off the back onto the coils on the bottom of the oven...burning the pizza.  John came in the kitchen, shook his head and told her she wouldn't have to cook any more.

But she tried again.  This time, she turned on a burner to boil water in a tea kettle.  She turned on the wrong burner.    A "made from scratch" pie that John made was in the oven.  When the buzzer went off, she thought she would do him a favor and take it out.  She put it on the stove to cool (not knowing that she had inadvertently turned on the wrong burner).  A few minutes later, they smelled something was John's freshly baked pie!  Needless to say, he wasn't too happy.  I'm sure he encouraged her to STAY OUT of the kitchen!

I choose to believe that she was pretty smart - she didn't like to cook and this was her way of convincing her husband that she shouldn't be in the kitchen! (as opposed to she wasn't very smart...)

He loved cooking, making his own beer, smoking his pipes, laughing and making other people laugh. He loved the Bengals, the Reds (and most likely would be at Opening Day tomorrow!)  He loved the Kelts.  Rugby.  But most of all he loved my daughter.  He was a good husband to Melissa.  He took his vows seriously...'til death do us part.

Standing at Haps on the deck in the back, it wasn't the same without his laughter.  He had a one of a kind was a belly laugh.  Loud.  Oh how I miss that.  That was something he and Melissa had in common.  Their laughs...and they were LOUD.  And funny.  They were so much fun to be around. They were the definition of "soul mates".   They were better when they were together.

And that brings me to the definition of "Family".   The part that says ".any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins:..."  I think that family doesn't necessarily have to be related by blood.

The Kelts are a perfect example of this.  Family is about being there when you are needed the most.  Coming through when the chips are down.  Listening.  Helping.  Talking. Sharing. Loving.

There is no better example of all those traits than the Kelts.  They are a true example of family.  "Once a Kelt, Always a Kelt" is there motto.  We were never members of the Kelts- team members.  But because we (me, Donny, Nick, John, Diana, Erin, Aileen) are family (by blood) to Kelts members, we ARE considered family.

Brendan O'Connor, a Kelt and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which John was also a member of, organized a lot of the memorial and the reception at Rhinegeist following.  Stacy Schnieber, a teammate, best college friend of Melissa's organized the food for the luncheon.  And the rest of the Kelts family took it from there.  There was enough food to serve the 200 people that attended.  There was laughter, tears, stories and lots of love.  THAT is the definition of family.

(And I want to say that WE felt that love too when Melissa died.  Between the Kelts and our friends who took over the planning for the celebration of Melissa's life after her mass, we were touched by their love and generosity.)

The Kelts continue to show their love, including us in pretty much everything.  We are a part of their family.

And now, John and Diana (and Aileen, Erin and Tonia) will feel that love too.  They saw it yesterday. All (Big) John could say was "they are amazing".  We know that.

Your son was a part of the Kelts family, and YOU are too.  They will never forget.

THAT is family.

Celebrating J Mac at Rhinegeist...a place I know he loved

Harry and Jeannie.  Harry was John's Best Man when John and Melissa got married.

Grandma Fortener saying goodbye to Big John
The newest member of the Kelts...Hula and Molly's little girl!

We usually go in the back door at Haps.  This time, Uber dropped us off at the front door.  What a nice surprise we got...the FORT sticker is on the window as you walk in the front door!

J Mac's Kelts family surrounds him...he is in the photo on top of the cooler - along with his rugby cleats!

Three cheers for Johnny Mac...
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!

Donny, Pauly and me.

Me, Ang, Allen, Donny and Big John

I told JMacs dad that the last time I saw JMac at Haps, we did a shot together. So his dad recreated that moment...
with me and his Kelts family!

Big John and Pauly.  I'm pretty sure I know who they are talking about...

more J Mac stories...

JMacs sister, Erin and Nick.  She lost her only brother, Nick lost his only sibling and sister.
I think they  found a sibling in each other...

John and Diana commissioned an artist in NC to paint this...our favorite of both of them!

Our last stop on the way home was David's Cemetery.  Diana wanted us to share the flowers with Melissa and JP.  

Some of you know this already, but Johnny Mac will be interred with Melissa and JP soon.  We decided to completely re-do the headstone.  We have already talked to Dodds Monuments and redesigned everything.  Changing the photo from Melissa to Melissa and John.  All three of their names will be on the headstone.  

I knew they were going to take the headstone away (to grind it down, repolish and engrave the new design)...I just didn't know when.  I really wasn't prepared to see it GONE when we got there today.  I guess I wanted one last look...thank goodness we've taken multiple pictures of it...


This seems to be a good time to plug the FORT 5K since I have you here...
Put Sunday, April 30 on your calendars!  You can register @
Early registration has been extended until April 15.

Hope we see you there.

(Just a note...the puzzle has been going off the whole time I've been typing here.  I hope she's ok with everything I've said.  And I hope J Mac knows how much we love him...)


Anonymous said...

That was awesome Pam I told you you need to write a book I'am proud to have you as a sister All My Love Donna

Pam Fortener said...

Thank you Donna. I'm not a very good sister....I'll work on that. Love you too.

KJ said...

Wonderful post. And the painting turned out beautifully!