This picture was taken last fall for a magazine article about Uncle Royce farming.
Royce Wendall Fortner went to be in his heavenly home Wednesday evening around 8pm. Our family is very thankful that he is no longer suffering, but saddened that he will no longer be with us here on earth. My parents spent several hours with him Wednesday, and he passed away shortly after they went home. My Aunt Alice, his eldest daughter, Angie; and his only son, Mark, were all with him.
A little about my Uncle Royce....my dad always referred to him as "my little brother." He was only 2 years younger than Daddy and just a couple of inches shorter. Daddy and Uncle Royce favored SO much. People would mistake them all the time for the other when driving a tractor! I even think Grandpa Fortner did a time or two!
My uncle graduated from Risco High School I guess in about 1963 and did what many didn't do back in the day...he left Tallapoosa and went to school at Rolla and earned an engineering degree. He married my Aunt Alice while still in college and after school they moved to Dallas, Texas. This was a HUGE deal in our family as no one ever really left home. He worked for Texas Instruments. I can remember going to visit when I was about 3-years-old. I knew there was a bigger world out there that I wanted to see after this trip as they had huge shopping centers in Dallas, and to my memory, the first time I ever swam in a concrete swimming pool.
Uncle Royce's daughter is 2 months older than me, and I can remember hearing my cousin was moving to Tallapoosa. This was when we were four or so. Uncle Royce came back to farm. I guess if you have farming in your blood, it's hard to shake it! Uncle Royce had many wonderful years farming in the Tallapoosa area. Our families lived about an eighth of a mile from each other my whole childhood. What I recall most about Uncle Royce when I was small is his nickname was "Smiley!"
Uncle Royce's family went on to grow. His son, Mark, was born on Feb. 12, 1973, and Betsey came along on 4th of July 1979. His pride and joy were all his grand kids. He has 5 grandsons and 2 granddaughters. The eldest grandson is Toby and he's about 11, and I'm sure Uncle Royce has already taught him to drive a tractor.
Uncle Royce has been very active in the First Baptist Church in Risco since he moved back to the bootheel when we were kids. Uncle Royce loved his church and his church family.
Uncle Royce was diagnosed with colon cancer that had spread to the liver and ommentum last August. He fought a very tough battle to stay here on this earth. He saw Malaena-Sloan the first time on Mother's Day because we had her dedication service at his church. When he saw her, he said she was something else. As he's been sick and in the hospital, I would drop by with her and he would say, "There's my girl." Eventhough he felt so poorly, she would put a smile all over his face. We are all very sad to have to give Uncle Royce up, but we rejoice knowing he knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. My Grandpa Fortner was buried on July 30, 1994, and Uncle Royce went to join him on July 30, 2008. He will be very missed.
For me, this is just a reminder of how precious life is, and how quickly it passes by. Remember our family in your prayers....especially my Grandma Fortner at this time of losing her son. Stop today and give those you love a big hug!