Most of you didn't know Marcel Fortney, but he was a longtime figure in the aftermarket. He started with Cycle Guide magazine and worked for various other companies, including Yoshimura Suzuki, Pirelli tires and, most recently, for AGV Helmets. At various times he was a dealer. Always he was an enthusiast of motorcycling — on-road, off-road and vintage.
Marcel last month died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 49. He died on the Monday following the Mid-America vintage auction in Las Vegas. Only the Wednesday before he was in the Dealernews offices with his associate, J.H. Leale, taking our editors through the 2007 line of AGV helmets.
I'd known Marcel since the early 1980s, but like many of the people we come in contact with through our business, I didn't know Marcel well. I wish I had. A memorial was held for him the last weekend of January in Southern California. About 200 people attended the service, in the rain, outside of a friend's home. In those few hours I learned a lot about Marcel that I didn't previously know.
I learned he was a devoted family man and only had good things to say about his wife — no matter how badly she screwed up, like leaving the gas filler hose in the truck and driving away. I learned that he worshiped his stepdaughter Mackie and that more than anything else, wherever he was, his biggest desire was to be back with his family.
I heard people talk about how he'd mentored them and encouraged them in their careers. I learned he had a degree in literature and could discuss Keats. I learned he loved riding in the rain. I learned from my wife that once, when abandoned (by me) at an industry event, she bumped into him at the refreshment counter and he spent 15 minutes talking to her, making her feel comfortable and welcome even though he didn't know who she was at the time.
I learned of his generosity of time and possession: He once spent two weeks driving a chase vehicle across the country in support of the Triumph Ride Across America — and, to the best of my knowledge, did it gratis. He gave other people equipment to make their rides safer. He was always there to move a bike, lend a hand, or point you in the right direction.
I learned that when he was out of work, busted, and facing a particularly bleak day, he told his friends, "Don't worry, it will work out." And it did.
I learned that you can be a man's man and still be kind, gentle, loving and optimistic. I learned that life can be unexpectedly short. So maybe we need to pay closer attention to those around us, and make sure their needs are being met. I learned that maybe we need to take advantage of all the good things that come our way, because we may not have another chance tomorrow.
The industry is diminished by Marcel's absence.