Fortune, and endurance
Jim Fortune rode 400 miles on a motorcycle, wanting to give up, but never giving in. His success in real estate echoed that will. At the end of the year, Fortune will close the chapter on that episode too.
WEBSTER CITY — At the end of the year, when he locks the office a final time, Jim Fortune will be closing the door on a long real estate career in this Hamilton County town.
On Jan. 1, Jim Fortune Realty will no longer exist.
But that’s only the end of the most recent chapter of Fortune’s life. There have been others, now closed, but no less interesting for being in the past.
Take, for instance, his relationship with his big brother, Leonard Fortune.
“He’s nine and a half years older than me, and I idolized him because he had motorcycles and I always wanted a motorcycle,” Jim Fortune said.
The Fortune boys grew up on the west end of Webster City with their father, Glen, and their mother, Alice.
Jim Fortune graduated from Webster City High School in 1963 and went work for his brother.
“I worked for my brother for a couple years; then I got drafted.”
He didn’t go to Vietnam. Instead, he was stationed in France and Germany.
“I served in the Army. I was a company clerk.”
But first he was a carpenter.
“Their interpretation of a carpenter and mine were two different things,” he recalled. “Their interpretation was digging ditches and I decided I didn’t want to be doing dirt digging. So, I had a fairly high clerical score and they needed somebody in the office.”
Eventually, motorcycles roared back into his life. It was 1967.
“I went to work for my brother again. He had a Honda shop here in Webster City called Webster City Honda. And then I went to work for him in Fort Dodge.” Leonard Fortune had opened another Honda shop there.
For 10 years, he managed his brother’s business and indulged in his passion for two wheels.
“That’s all I could think about as a kid. I had a Doodle Bug that was made over here at the plant (in Webster City). Had two of them, actually. The first one I got, I destroyed it. We did things with it you shouldn’t do with it: jumping ramps and things like that.”
He was 13 when he owned his first Bug. He paid for it by delivering newspapers for The Daily Freeman-Journal. “I got about $50 in a month. I think I paid $40 for this Doodle Bug.”
But the Doodle Bug wasn’t a fit for the kind of riding he liked.
“Cross country mostly. I did some motocross.”
He raced a lot.
“I suppose a couple hundred.”
Jim Fortune raced competitively from 1967 to 1974, when he won one of the biggest events he could compete in, an endurance race in Lansing, Michigan.
“It was called the Jack Pine National Enduro. Oh, there were several hundred.”
The timed, two-day event covered 400 miles.
“It was all off-road, so it was water, mud, hills, trees. It was upstate Michigan.”
Jim Fortune topped the field on a Husqvarna, according to Jack Pine records.
It was a long 400 miles.
“You get some information as far as map and you got your clocks so you could kind of figure out where you were at,” Fortune said.
He admits that he wanted to quit. “Yeah, because it was so long.”
Instead, he switched gears. In the late 1970s, real estate began to look tempting. So he went to work for Runkle Realty in Fort Dodge.
Eventually, though he opened his own place in Webster City.
“Down on Willson Avenue. There used to be a place called Pucci’s Pizza right on the corner of Willson Avenue and Main Street. There was a little office behind that pizza place. That’s where I opened up because it was inexpensive.”
Jim Fortune Real Estate was born. In the fall of 1983 he built an office on the main thoroughfare into town, Superior Street. Three other agents worked with him.
Today, Sandy van Hauen and Carol Lemon still work with him. When he closes the firm, van Hauen will move on to another location; Lennon will retire. His own plans will depend on his health. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2017. Fortunately, his wife, Mary, owns a Shanti Rejuvenation Center in town.
Looking back on the 35 years since he first opened the door on that new office, he sees that the changes in the world of real estate are every bit as variable as the conditions he faced from the seat of a motorcycle across 400 miles.
“Everything” has changed, he said. “Technology to sell it, and the size of the houses. Cost. Everything. … Back then when I first started selling real estate a two-car garage was a real luxury. Now, it’s got to be a three-car.”
And even though there are rumblings of millennials not wanting to buy houses, Fortune uses what he has learned in the endurance race that is his life to forecast what’s ahead.
“Well, everybody wants to own a home.”