Columbus, OH — Lynn Fortna of Reno, Nev., and Hudson, Ohio, died unexpectedly from an acute intracranial hemorrhage on May 24, 2022, in Reno, two days before her 72 birthday.
She is survived by her husband, Tom Aldrich; daughters, Allison and Christine; 11-week-old grandson, Nathan Thomas; brother and sister-in-law, Jim (Barbara); sister-in-law, Gail (Ron) Collins; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and extended family residing in Carroll, Ohio, and her beloved hometown area of Lebanon, Pa.
She was a Standardbred trainer and driver in the mid-Atlantic and upstate New York tracks from 1970-’78, one of the few women to compete on the racetrack in that period. She learned the family business from her father George, a well-known trainer-driver on the PA fair circuit and at tracks all over the East Coast. A Dover, Del., daily newspaper article from 1973 described George’s pride and confidence in his 23-year-old daughter after he sent Lynn to Pocono Downs with a hard-to-handle trotter which reeled off six straight wins there.
From 1982 to 1985 she held various positions at Rosecroft Raceway: patrol judge and office assistant to racing secretary Billy Perkins and paddock judge working with presiding judge Kent Hastings and identifier Brenda Teague. During the same time frame at Freestate Raceway’s summer meet, she was an assistant to GM Jim Wilhelm, patrol judge and stall superintendent. One of her fondest memories there was working with PR director Steve Ross to arrange a celebrity match race between Gloria Steinem and Loretta Swit of M*A*S*H fame, an event that garnered a huge crowd and extensive media coverage.
In 1984, Lynn and Tom, GM at Rosecroft, married. Seven months pregnant with their first daughter Allison, she relocated to Ohio in September 1985 when Tom was hired as GM at Northfield Park. Her experiences and friendships in Maryland were among the happiest of her life.
In a serendipitous twist of fate, Allison, an MD in Psychiatry, is beginning her second year of residency at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and Lynn visited her often during the last year of her life.
Throughout her 38 years of marriage to Tom, Lynn was an inveterate traveler. She relished their many trips to Las Vegas and Florida for Harness Tracks of America and related gaming conventions where she would reunite with industry friends and spend time with the families of Northfield owners Carl and Brock Milstein. Side trips with the kids to Disney World and Disneyland were usually on the itinerary as well. She enjoyed trips to New York City while Allison was in undergrad at NYU; Europe (especially Paris, her favorite city) with daughters or cousins in tow; Havana, Cuba for a 12-day art and culture festival; whale sighting in New England; a month-long trip to Brazil and Argentina for Christine’s Evergreen College work-study project; and multiple camping/hiking trips throughout the Western United States.
During the couple’s child-rearing years in Hudson, she devoted her whole being to nurturing their daughters and supporting her husband’s career at Northfield, while keeping her own ties to harness racing by serving several years as presiding judge at the Geauga and Medina County Fair meets. She served two years as Community Leader of all Girl Scout troops in Hudson, was a home room mom, school volunteer and passionate advocate and organizer for bond issues and levy renewals.
As a volunteer, she spearheaded the American Cancer Society’s inaugural Hudson Relay for Life Walk, a two-day event she continued to direct for several years which raised nearly $300,000. Its success led to the ACS’s hiring of Lynn to expand the Relay to the nearby cities of Twinsburg and Aurora. All three communities have continued the events to this day. Her philanthropic endeavors culminated in a three-year stint as assistant director and fundraiser for the Ohio SIDS Foundation.
When Lynn and Tom purchased a second home in Reno in 2008, she embarked on a new career as a real estate agent with her business partner and best friend there, Barb Tuttle, a Columbus native who worked 17 years as a court reporter in Delaware County, Ohio. The harness connection remained unbroken, as Barb had crossed paths with numerous Delaware Countians who volunteered at the fairgrounds during Little Brown Jug week. The pair conducted a thriving enterprise together until shortly before Lynn’s passing.
A private memorial service for family and close friends will be held in Lebanon, Pa., this autumn, officiated by Lynn and Tom’s pastor, the Reverend James Bane of Hudson. Lynn’s remains will be scattered near the home she grew up in and at the cemetery graves of her parents, George and Teresa Fortna.
“My wife was the center of our universe, the anchor we thought would never give way. She exemplified the very best qualities that thrive and endure in the close-knit harness racing community. Lynn was born into it, cherished the people in it, and was grateful and proud to be part of it to her dying day. The most prized possessions in her closet are her two sets of white, orange and royal blue colors. They, and her blessed, indomitable spirit, endure,” said Aldrich.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Harness Horse Youth Foundation, 2711 Friar Tuck Road, Anderson IN 46013 or via Paypal at www.hhyf.org. HHYF is a 501 c 3 charitable organization; thus donations are tax deductible as allowable by law.
Together with an initial endowment in Lynn’s memory provided by the Aldrich and Fortna families, contributions will be pooled to establish a source of funding for both young and “young at heart” women who are currently involved in harness racing or wish to become more involved through training, driving, officiating, and other roles in the industry. Further details will be announced in the fall of 2022.