CHERRYVILLE – Robert Dwight (R.D.) Fortenberry, 81, died Dec. 23, 2012, at his home.
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Born in Lincoln County on Sept. 24, 1931, he was the only child of Clyde W. and Mary Houser Fortenberry.
Mr. Fortenberry spent his life in the North Brook Community, contributing widely to the life of the community and carrying out his Christian ministry among the people of the area.
He was a faithful member of First Baptist Church in Cherryville, Baptist Men, N.C. Disaster Recovery, N.C. Baptist Lay Witness Foundation, and Gideons International – Lincoln West.
With others of the Baptist faith, he traveled to areas stricken by natural disasters, providing volunteer service and assisting with rebuilding efforts. His personal ministry was not limited to those living distantly. Countless people in the Cherryville area have been served by the wheelchair ramps he built through his work with fellow members of the First Baptist Handy Man Ministry.
Mr. Fortenberry began work at an early age at a service station and grill near his home. He owned and operated a community grocery store for eight years before joining L&R Oil Co. in Shelby, where he worked for 26 years as a truck driver. For 10 years he drove for Carolina Freight Carriers Corp., headquartered in Cherryville, and received the company's Driver of the Month Award in November 1992.
Behind the wheel of transfer trucks, Mr. Fortenberry logged 3,018,865 miles without a ticket, a record of which he was extremely proud.
His love of driving extended to a strong interest in racing. He owned and drove a race car for 15 years, but one of his greatest joys after retirement came from driving The Gazette float in Christmas parades throughout Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland counties.
Long active in the life of his community, Mr. Fortenberry was a charter member of the West Lincoln Optimist Club and a former member of the Lincoln hospital board of directors. He also held membership in the N.C. Oil Jobbers Association and N.C. Trucking Association.
For 39 years, he was a loving and devoted husband to the former Joan Beam, also a life-long resident of the North Brook Community, whose death in 2007 left him heart-broken. When they married in 1968, he gained the family he never had, telling friends and family that he finally had a daughter, Sherry Collins of Belmont. His deep and abiding love for his two grandsons enriched their lives, especially in their early years when they spent time during the holidays and summers at the family home outside Cherryville. He was filled with delight when his family grew to include his first great-grandchild in 2011, and he had planned to be with her this year on Christmas morning.
In addition to Ms. Collins, he is survived by grandsons Brad Collins and wife Shelley of Gastonia, and Vance Collins and finance Gina Utter of Belmont; great-granddaughter, Margaret Elizabeth Collins of Gastonia; and a special friend, Evelene Thompson of Kings Mountain.
Visitation: The family will receive friends at the church from 11 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. Thursday
Funeral Service: The funeral will be held at 12 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church, Cherryville
Officiated By: The Rev. Vince Hefner, Dr. Dan Featherstone and the Rev. Cecil Ballard will officiate
Funeral Home: Carpenter's Funeral Home in Cherryville is in charge of arrangements.
Burial: Cherryville City Cemetery following funeral
Memorials: The family has requested that any memorials be made to First Baptist Church, 301 E. First St., Cherryville, 28021 or Gideons International – West Lincoln, PO Box 1074, Lincolnton, N.C. 28092.
Published in Shelby Star on Dec. 26, 2012