Lillian Virginia Fortenberry

BAR HARBOR — Lillian Virginia Fortenberry, 93, died at home surrounded by family on Aug. 5, 2010.

Hers was a long life filled with generosity and love, hard work, handiwork, travel and amazing cooking! Virginia will be remembered as a wonderful mother, sister, aunt and friend. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will remember Nana as “the best grandmother ever.”


The daughter of Henry Dawson and Marion Edna (Loudon) Wicker, she was born June 13, 1917, and grew up in Zachary and Baton Rouge, La. In 1936 she married William Ermmitt “Cuz” Fortenberry. Following World War II his career with the U. S. Air Force took them and their two young daughters to many parts of the United States. In the early 1950’s Ermmitt was assigned to the Crash Boat Unit located in Southwest Harbor, attached to Dow Air Force Base in Bangor. The family fell in love with the coast of Maine. They settled in Southwest Harbor where Virginia ran and did the cooking at their restaurant, Cuz’s Café, for more than a decade, including the difficult period of her husband’s illness and death in the early 1960s.

In 1965 Virginia returned to Baton Rouge to live near family. Virginia was a valued employee for H. J. Wilson Company for more than 20 years, first as a salesperson and then, as a buyer helping to open stores throughout the South as the company expanded. During those years of hard work she still found time to sew and cook for her family. Her homemade southern-style Sunday dinners were the highlight of the week for many family and friends. Over the years Virginia took many trips to visit family and friends throughout the world. Her travels took her as far south as Peru and as far east as Japan, with trips to Europe as well. She regularly visited family from Maine to California. Wherever she went she wanted to see it all and do it all, and she always wondered at the different shrubs and flowers in each location.

In 1985 she retired and returned to Maine to be nearer her daughters, living first in Bernard, and more recently in Ellsworth. During her retirement she continued to cook, travel, and crochet. Her “Nana Booties” were legendary and are being worn on several continents. Only in the last few years did she truly slow down, and though she could no longer cook, or crochet for them, family, especially the great-grandchildren, remained her joy and focus.

Though it is sad to lose her, Virginia lives on in the hearts of those she leaves behind: her daughter and son-in-law, Virginia Lee and Fred Rich; six grandchildren and their spouses, Bill Rich and wife Emily of Friendswood, Texas, Dean Rich and wife Kristine of Centreville, Va., Dodie Hamblen and husband Gerry Lax of Pennington, N.J., Cheri Sankey and husband Andrew of Gouldsboro, Victoria Minutolo and husband Joe of Bar Harbor, and Rob Hamblen and wife Satomi of Pacifica, Calif.; 12 great-grandchildren; and many devoted family members and friends.

She was predeceased by her husband, William E. Fortenberry; daughter Eleanor Fortenberry; grandson Mark Rich; and her six siblings – Henry Wicker, Ben Wicker, Edna Lee McFerran, Frank Wicker, Robert Wicker and Ruby “Tot” Hogan.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, at Greenoakes Memorial Park and Funeral Home, 9595 Florida Blvd., Baton Rouge, La. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Virginia’s memory may be made to Hospice of Hancock County, 14 McKenzie Ave, Ellsworth ME 04605.

A service of Brookings-Smith, 133 Center Street, Bangor. Condolences to the family may be expressed at

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