A Townships’ Legend. Born in Sherbrooke on July 28, 1920 to Florian Fortin and Corinne Marquis. His father was the Managing Editor of La Tribune in the 20’s. He attended Brébeuf and Loyola Colleges in Montreal. After the war in 1946, he received his B.A. from the University of Montreal (high honours) and received his M.D., C.M. from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine in 1950.
He had come of age at the beginning of WWII and volunteered to serve. During the war, he was assigned to teach heavy anti-aircraft artillery in both languages, being fluently bilingual. At war’s end, he emerged from the military a Captain, anxious to resume his studies. Later, as a new McGill graduate, he chose general practice rather than delay his career any further. He first practiced in Godbout, an isolated northern Quebec lumber town accessible only by boat, and later in Baie Comeau. While in Godbout, without any support network, he delivered a large range of medical services, often in homes, sometimes without benefit of electricity. He was dedicated to his profession and, prior to Medicare, often took little or nothing for his service.
He returned to Sherbrooke in 1966 to run the Emergency Room at the now-defunct English-speaking Sherbrooke Hospital. He brought back with him new knowledge, not formally taught at medical schools, and was able to handle a full-range of medical procedures. While at the Sherbrooke Hospital, he was invited to join the faculty of the new School of Medicine being established at the University of Sherbrooke. He credited his singular experiences in Godbout and Baie Comeau with shaping his vision of family medicine, so he was pleased to contribute substantially to establishing the school’s Department of Family Medicine, a new concept in medical care. He personified the passing of an old tradition in medicine and the birth of a new. It is thought that he was Canada’s first General Practitioner to become a full-time professor in a medical school.
During this time, he was known for making house calls, often on his bicycle and is still remembered by so many in the Sherbrooke / Lennoxville area for his medical skills. Prompted by his first wife’s terminal illness, he took early retirement from the University and moved to Lambton to the family property, a place where he had always gone to recharge. There, he opened an active practice and, yes, made house calls. He remarried in 1988 and moved to Montreal. Although semi-retired, he supervised in the emergency room at the Montreal General Hospital and worked with the McGill Geriatrics Department, making house calls to elderly patients throughout the metropolitan area. In 1991, he was named ‘Omnipracticien en Milieu Urbain’ by l’Association des médecins de langue française. In 2002, he was honoured by the Canadian Medical Association as an Emeritus Member. Literally an inspiration for medicine’s new generation, he counted two family physicians among his six children.
In the last few years, his bright and sparkling mind was systematically eroded by dementia. Even so, he managed to retain some of his legendary rapier-sharp wit and to continue to respect the written word. His physical and mental condition became such that in March, 2007, he was no longer able to remain at home in the Eastern Townships’ Village of Hatley. He is survived by his second wife, Anne McCormick, who lovingly cared for him throughout this difficult journey, and by five children—Marquis (Richard Fontaine), Louis, Brigitte (Donald Caldwell), Bernard (Suzanne Beaudet), Nathalie (Jean Grison) and 13 grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife Francois (Fortin) and a daughter, Sylvie.
In respect of his wishes,there will be no visitation or funeral so everyone can remember him in his/her own way. His ashes will be brought by the immediate family to his beloved property in Lambton, now owned by daughter and her husband. The family wishes to thank the CLSC of the Centre de Santé Memphremagog, Veterans Affairs Canada whose home services were invaluable in allowing him to remain at home for so long, as well at the CHUS (Fleurimont) and the Connaught Home where he spent the last 11 months of his life.