Dave Olson, Published May 15 2013
Olson: Longtime Spuds phy ed teacher led by example
He was 81.
Mr. Fortin taught physical education and coached sports at Moorhead South Junior High, where I attended school in the 1970s.
He was compact and no-nonsense. Like a bullet. And when he talked to you, you listened.
I can still hear him.
Like the time my shoe came untied while dribbling a basketball down the court.
Mr. Fortin told me (or yelled at me, I can’t remember which): “Ole, double tie those laces. They won’t come loose again.”
Another time, I was playing soccer in gym class.
Earl Ramirez and I smashed our knees together while kicking the ball at the same time and we collapsed on the ground, writhing in pain.
Mr. Fortin walked up. He looked us over. Then he walked away, shaking his head.
I’m pretty sure I heard him mutter: “Pansies.”
I was shocked. Aren’t grown-ups supposed to help kids who get hurt?
Then I realized I could still walk. And after limping around for a few minutes, I was back in the game.
Mr. Fortin talked a lot about “intestinal fortitude.” To this day, I’m not sure what that is.
But if Mr. Fortin said you had it, you felt great.
It was the same if he said you had a good motor – meaning you hustled – that made you feel good, too.
I’m not sure why praise from Mr. Fortin was so potent. Maybe it’s because it always had to be earned, the hard way.
And maybe it’s because he lived his words.
As a kid, I would sometimes see Mr. Fortin doing his own running in various spots around Moorhead. He ran with short, quick, staccato strides that seemed to cover no ground.
But he took a lot of them. And you knew he wouldn’t be stopping to take a break for something like a side ache.
And you knew for sure his shoe laces were going to stay tied.
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Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555