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Bagpipes played and drums sounded for the hundreds gathered Tuesday morning to mourn and celebrate the life of Stockton Fire Capt. Vidal “Max” Fortuna, who was shot and killed in the line of duty last week.
Fortuna, 47, served his community for 21 years before he was shot Jan. 31 while responding to a fire near Aurora and Washington streets.
A bell rang nine times at about noon, and a dispatcher announced the final alarm for Fortuna, whose body lay before those gathered at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton.
“Max, rest easy my friend,” said Stockton Fire Chief Rick Edwards. “We’ll take it from here.”
Fortuna started with the Stockton Fire Department on Dec. 1, 2000. Before he died, he was part of Engine 2, where he was assigned for several years at one of the busiest stations in the city.
He also worked on the hazardous materials team for a brief time. Fortuna was promoted to captain in 2009.
Shortly after he started with the fire department, he quickly became known as a fireman’s fireman, Lodi Fire Chief Ken Johnson said in a eulogy.
“Max wanted the toughest assignments,” Johnson said.
“He wanted to save lives,” he said.
Johnson said that to Fortuna, work was worshipping God, following references to Fortuna’s religious faith. He called Fortuna’s life “selfless.”
Fortuna had three pillars in his life: faith, family and being a fireman, Johnson said.
“Today, we honor a leader, a hero and a man who was deeply loved,” Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said. “That’s exactly who Capt. Max Fortuna was.”
Lincoln said Fortuna led by example. Very few people understand the sacrifices that firefighters and their families make, Lincoln said.
Born to lead
Edwards added that is takes a special person to be a firefighter, to run into a burning building and tend to a person taking their last breath.
Fortuna also trained firefighter recruits, whose respect he earned.
“Max was a born leader,” Edwards said.
“He focused on developing others,” Edwards added.
Fortuna’s daughter Samantha said friends would often comment that she had a good dad, even a great dad, but she would correct them.
His life was cut short, and he was stolen from us.”Lodi Fire Chief Ken Johnson
“Our dad was the best,” she told the crowd repeatedly, as her husband, her brother and his fiancee stood by her side.
“Love radiated from him,” she said of her father.
Fighting back tears at times, Stockton Fire Capt. Ryan Hoskinson said he couldn’t put into words what he wanted to say to remember his colleague, so he didn’t prepare anything. But he described Fortuna as someone who liked to have fun and who was mischievous.
“Every time he was around you, you felt good,” Hoskinson said.
Fortuna didn’t have any enemies in the fire department, Hoskinson added.
His life was cut short, and he was stolen from us,” Johnson said.
Fortuna is survived by his wife Becky, a son Joshua, and his daughter. He and his wife recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
A man is in custody and has been charged with the fatal shooting of Fortuna.
A video of the memorial service can be viewed on Facebook.