Walt Fortney came to Anamosa in 1972, he was a former teacher, coach and Navy veteran, he became our Jr. High principal. He along with his guidance counselor, Don Harmon formed a solid partnership for a quarter of a century. They both served our school district from 1972 – 1997. These two men were a big part of why I became a teacher. I had the privilege of being in Walt’s first seventh grade class. I immediately as a 12-year-old boy found Mr. Fortney to be: a great leader, role model, tough, fair and so well-respected.
The impressions that Walt and Don instilled in me are still very strong to this day nearly a half century later.
In May 2003, Walt was posthumously honored by having the Anamosa Middle School library and computer labs officially named the Walt Fortney Learning Center. It was a very proud and special day. His two daughters, Meg and Margo, were there for this tribute. They shared these insights about their father, “Dad was exemplary and had a fascinating mix of professionalism, down-to-earth common sense, and had a unique sense of humor. It was great to be raised by him.”
Walt’s former science teacher, Rick Delagardelle, spoke at this tribute, and three former students of Walt’s who were then serving on the school board were also there: Anna Mary Boots Riniker, Shawn Lambertsen, and Rich Crump.
In May 2005, the Walt Fortney Character Award was started up for an eighth-grade girl and boy. It is for outstanding effort and dedication to the principles of: responsibility, cooperation, reliability, punctuality, respect, politeness, consideration, honesty and most importantly to always treat others the way you want to be treated.
The five finalist girls are called the Fortney girls, and the five finalist boys are called the Fortney boys. I am very proud that all three of my sons: Nathan, Sean and Skylar were Fortney boys.
Listed here are the past winners: 2005 Gina Kardaras and Brice Antons, 2006 Jackie Engelbart and Sawyer Frazier, 2007 Lauren Taylor and Ben Gates, 2008 Jennifer Beall and Josh Oberbroeckling, 2009 Kaity Meade and Austin Holub, 2010 Kylie Wood and J.C. Ditch, 2011 Abigail Oldham and Wyatt O’Connor, 2012 SaCora Fisher and Dylan Wood, 2013 Jenna Wilson and Cole Sander, 2014 Claire Duncan and Pierce Fairbanks, 2015 Erika Jaeger and Shawn Buhr, 2016 Dakota Bierer and Coleman Dimmer, 2017 Jaiden Peasley and Ivan Lambertsen, 2018 Madeline Broghammer and Eli Lehrman, 2019 Maggie Wagner and Sean Hollett, 2020 Tina Lin and Ike Claussen-Tubbs and 2021 Bree Brophy and Carver Reiss.
Walt was a pioneer in the middle school in eastern Iowa. He was a recipient of the R. Paul Brimm Award for excellence in middle school education. This award meant a great deal to Walt, since Dr. Brimm was his high school principal.
I have seen many things happen in the Anamosa School District since I first started as a student in Ms. Chapman’s kindergarten class in the fall of 1965. For me, knowing Walt Fortney and Don Harmon was life changing.
I want to thank Rick Delagardelle and Dave Michels, another one of Walt’s former students, for honoring Walt by starting up the Walt Fortney Character Award.