Gisele M. Fortin, 83, of Newport News passed away on Thursday, May 26, 2023. She lived a remarkable life filled with diverse experiences and accomplishments.
Gisele was born in Tunisia during the Second World War to French parents and later moved to Nice, France, where she lived with her mother and raised by Catholic nuns. In 1957, Gisele began her business career at a dealership for Simca, a leading French automobile manufacturer. In 1964, she married Sylvester A. Fortin III, an American naval quartermaster who later retired as a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army. The couple relocated from France to New Jersey where they gave birth to their son Jean-Pierre before settling in Newport News.
A lifelong learner, Gisele pursued further education and obtained management certifications from Christopher Newport University and Virginia Peninsula Community College (then Thomas Nelson Community College). She worked at Newport News Educators’ Credit Union as a branch manager and security specialist before transitioning to real estate. In Williamsburg, she served as office manager for Powhatan Plantation, director of operations for Kings Creek Plantation, and finally a warehouse specialist for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
Throughout her career, Gisele received numerous service awards and professional recognition. She was particularly interested in organizations such as The Napoleonic Society, The Cousteau Society, and The Smithsonian Institution and served as President of the Credit Professionals International Mid-Atlantic Council. She had a passion for culture and exploration, which lead to extensive travel across the U.S., Europe, Asia, South and Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Opera, classical music, musical theater, and fine art were other interests which Gisele shared with family and friends.
Gisele took immense pride in her accomplishments and held herself to exacting standards. She was a warm and generous soul who could quickly build rapport with everyone she met. From her worldly knowledge and ability to capture the attention of many through her life stories, she brought joy to so many friends, neighbors, and colleagues, with whom she cherished her relationships.
Gisele was preceded in death by her mother, Marie-Jeanne Mariani; her husband, Sylvester A. Fortin III; and her son, Jean-Pierre A. Fortin. She is survived by close friends and members of her community, including George and Tania Tyler, Anne Mason, Joan Garber, Joelle McKee, Cheri Thacker, Oliver Newton, Jaqueline Twitty, Matt Naly, Colton Fox, Daniel Carfora, among others. Gisele will be greatly missed and kept in the hearts of those dear to her.
In honor of Gisele, donations can be made to Habitat for Humanity through their website at www.habitat.org. Her independent spirit and determination are best captured by the phrase “Je l’ai fait à ma façon” which translates to “I did it my way.”