John Fortin, 89, who bought a small chemical manufacturer in North Philadelphia and turned it into a major chemical supply-chain management company, died Friday, April 20, of complications from a stroke at his home in Hershey's Mill in West Chester.
"He lived a full life. He didn't get cheated," said his son, Thaddeus J. Fortin, chief executive officer of Haas Group International.
In 1975, Mr. Fortin, then a salesman with Quaker Chemical in Conshohocken, bought Charles J. Haas in North Philadelphia, which had about $150,000 in revenue and three employees. Today, Haas Group International has 1,300 employees and revenues of $560 million and does business in more than 75 countries, Thaddeus Fortin said.
Mr. Fortin, known as Jack, grew up in Southwest Philadelphia. At age 8, during Prohibition, he delivered alcohol for his uncle, his son said.
He attended John Bartram High School and played second base on Bartram's championship baseball team in 1941.
After graduating from high school in 1942, Mr. Fortin joined the Navy that July. As a radioman second class, he spent his active duty in the Pacific and was in Nagasaki, Japan, two weeks after the atomic bomb was dropped. He earned two medals before his discharge in 1945.
After the war he drove a truck for 7Up, where he met his future wife, Maria, who was the switchboard operator. He then got a job with Quaker Chemical in 1957. Eighteen years later he bought Haas Chemical. He retired in 2000, and in 2007 his family sold the business to the Jordan Co., a private equity firm.
"He was pretty much a lifelong salesman," said his son. "He definitely made an impression on a lot of people."
Mr. Fortin was a lifelong sports fan and spent more than 20 years coaching youth and CYO football. His last stop was as assistant varsity coach and head freshman coach at St. Thomas More High School in West Philadelphia until it closed in 1975.
Perhaps his biggest thrill in sports was attending the Phillies Dream Week in 1984 and 1985, where he led all hitters at the age of 62. In 1999, he received the Matt Guokas Sr. Memorial Award from the Philadelphia Basketball Old Timers Association.
Befitting such a diehard sports fan, his son said, he will be laid out at his viewing in his Dream Week uniform.
"It's what he would want," he said. "He was quite the showman, so I think people who knew him will remember him that way."
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Fortin is survived by daughters Therese Walsh, Bernadette Fortin Nassib, Christina Ludin, and Joanne Hopkins; a brother; and 14 grandchildren.
A Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 24, at SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, 1325 Boot Rd., West Chester. A viewing will be from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at the church. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Kevin W. Walsh Foundation, c/o Haas Group, 1475 Phoenixville Pike, West Chester, Pa. 19380.