Owen Fortnam’s smile made everyone else smile in return.
It’s one of the many things that will be missed after the Waterville sixth grader died in a sledding accident at his home during the winter break last week. His funeral was Monday, less than three weeks after he turned 12 Feb. 7; teachers and staff at Memorial Park School offered services last week and will this week for students and each other to cope with the tragedy.
In third grade Owen formed a strong bond with teacher Jeremy Perrone and the two remained close as Owen moved up at MPS. Perrone said Owen was full of life, a kid with energy with an awesome laugh.
Perrone said Owen was strong in math class. “He and I had a lot of conversations,’’ Perrone said. “He was a good listener and would take some things I suggested to help him do better.’’
The Hubbardsville boy is the son of Scott and Shana Fortnam and big brother to Chayce.
Owen knew that Perrone spends his spare time writing poetry and attends a writing seminar in San Francisco each year. Owen gave Perrone a journal with ‘San Francisco’ on it and a pen with his name on it.
“That’s the kind of kid he was, always listening and thinking of others,’’ Perrone said. Perrone said it was easy to see where that came from, as Owen’s parents, Scott and Shana Fortnam, asked that Perrone and teacher Christine Goux, another of Owen’s favorite teachers, be contacted personally to hear of his death.
“That they were thinking of me at a time like that,’’ Perrone said, “just blows me away.’’
In fourth grade Owen was nervous about getting braces. “We talked and I told him he’d be fine,’’ Perrone said.
Owen loved to play and Perrone said that his former student was outside with younger brother Chayce, a first grader at MPS, during the school break didn’t surprise him.
“He was always in motion, always with a mischievous grin that was part of what drew me to him,’’ he said.
A member of Boy Scout Troop 108, Owen was also a member of the MPS Art Club and played the French horn.
Owen and Chayce were sledding down a hill in a backyard when they ran into a picnic table. Owen suffered fatal internal injuries.
Teachers from MPS and staff from the Junior-Senior High opened the doors to MPS during the break last Thursday to allow Owen’s friends and others to come together. Many of his sixth grade friends wrote notes to him on a poster and drew pictures.
They told him he will always be remembered and thanked him for always being a friend to everyone. Some of the boys also made reference to inside jokes they had with Owen.
MPS Principal Maureen Gray had the burden of sending the message to district parents that another Waterville student had died. Owen is the third Waterville student to die since the summer’s death of Jon-Jon Beach and November’s death of Jason Pomeroy.
In response to the loss of students, many Waterville people on Facebook changed their profile photo to include the words ‘Waterville Strong’ in a purple ribbon.
Gray said Owen’s family took part in many MPS activities. “He was a true sweetheart,’’ she said. “They are a supportive family of the school and it’s just heartbreaking for everyone.’’