Helen Hitchcock Fortson lived 89 years when she passed away on Saturday, August 31, 2013.
She was born on a cold and rare snowy morning January 11, 1924, the daughter of the late Lena Sanders and Guy Hitchcock at their home in Danielsville. However her little corner of the world was instantly warmed by her arrival.
She was a 1941 graduate of Madison County High School and spent her early years working at Southern Bell in Downtown Athens. But she is mostly remembered for her years at Fortson Store, where she was known by the majority of Madison County. She was a pioneer of her time. At 25 she became a business owner and, with the help of some extraordinary employees, managed her country store single-handedly for 40 years. To the untrained eye the old store may seem cluttered, but she was simply prepared to serve her community with any anticipated need: She sold the locally made Budwine, Beehive snuff, bologna by the slice, hoop cheese, and shoelaces. Her generosity was limitless; she "sold" most of this on credit because she couldn't sleep if she ever thought a child would go to bed hungry. Kids always got a special treat by being allowed to pick a piece of candy from the penny jar at the checkout counter. The store also provided an avenue for her to support many local organizations in her community. She was able to sponsor many sports teams, and donate to the Hull VFD who returned her support and dedication one February night in 1991 when the recently registered local landmark burned to the ground. Fortson Store was a glorious tribute to her character, which consisted of a beautiful balance between strength and compassion. As stated by a distant relative, "The Queen of England would be treated with the same courtesy as the poorest country farmer. She could see the nobility in all of us." Everyone who entered the store was a friend to Mrs. Fortson.
As a family member, those who knew her as Aunt Helen, Granny Helen, or especially Mother were privileged beyond measure. Her house, at the top of Fortson Hill, was the familial center that everyone gravitated to for all events. Her family reach was wide - not just reserved for her immediate family. When her nieces’ family (Montie Jo and Annette) gathered for holidays, there were so many people sleeping there one Christmas Eve that spots had to be taken under the dining room table. She gave Wyndee, Lynn, and Kay whose military father moved them often, a constant sense of home. She also stepped up for Tommy, Marie, Rusty, and Tracy as a motherly figure when theirs passed on too early. Her one daughter Rita (Lane) Collins never realized she was an only child. Her grandchildren Lee (Donnie) Burroughs from Hull and Raeford (Kim) Davis from Charleston, S.C. hold special memories of summer trips to Helen, Ga., delicious homemade vegetable soup and thoughtful care-packages sent to them wherever they lived. Her great-grands, Tyler and Gracie Moon, along with Megan and Alex Davis, knew no bounds for what they could experiment with whether it was overflowing bubble baths in the middle of the day, golf carts rides in the cow pasture, or eating Cheetos while watching Barney she was right there with them creating fun memories to last a lifetime. Although not a grandchild, but a great-grand niece, Cassie Scarborough was the first of these children to be doted on by Helen. There are simply too many family members to name, but they were all loved and all special in her eyes. The family asks that that anyone else who has special to please share them at onlineathens.com or Lord & Stephens East’s website.
Mrs. Fortson was preceded in death by her husband of 51 years, Stewart (J.S.) Fortson; siblings, Montie Hitchcock Shelnutt, Crawford Hitchcock, and Sally Hitchcock Echols; and her beloved great-grandson, Tyler Fortson Moon.
During the last eight months, Mrs. Fortson suffered from cancer, but never lost her spunk and was always quick with a witty response.
The family would like to thank her caregivers, Holly Leahman, Pasty Powers, Janice Pierce, Faye Hopkins, Dorothy Bonds, Joy Winkles, and St. Mary's Hospice. Their care enabled Mrs. Fortson to remain at home and to die with the same grace and dignity in which she lived her life.
Finally to continue her spirit of giving, the family requests any donations to be made to the Hull Volunteer Fire Department in her name (P.O. Box 400, Hull, GA 30646).
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, September 3, at 11 a.m. at Lord & Stephens East Chapel. Pastor Calvin Ward will officiate. Interment will follow at Evergreen Memorial Park. The pallbearers will be Tim Arthur, Nelson Dills, Tom Patterson, Billy Howard, Hal Scarborough and Jeremy Williams.
Visitation will be Monday, September 2, at the funeral home from 5 to 8 p.m. The family will receive friends at the residence of Rita and Lane Collins, 9820 Fortson Store Rd., Hull, GA.
Lord & Stephens Funeral Home, East, Athens, is in charge of arrangements.