Bill Ortts remembered as a leader, respected man who loved community

Bill Ortts, a past president of the Shenandoah County Fair, waves during the Shenandoah County Fair's 100 year anniversary parade held August 24 of this year in Woodstock. Ortts passed away this week at his home after battling pancreatic cancer. Rich Cooley/Daily

Bill Ortts was a successful businessman who loved his family and his community.

Ortts, who died Thursday,  founded Ortts Electric, now operated by his son Charlie, in 1967. Bill Ortts was on the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors for 12 years as well as joining the Shenandoah County Fair Board in 1985, where he served as president from 1996 to 2009. Bill bought a farm when he retired from his electrical business in 2002.

He had grown up on a farm, his son recalled.

“Life is going to be different. I don’t have the person I go to when I don’t know something,” Charlie Ortts said.

A week before Christmas last year, Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“He wanted to fight it and he did. He took chemo until it became harder to bounce back from the treatments,” Charlie said.

Bill’s wife Kitty was always by his side.

Charlie said Bill made a lasting impact on people in his life and passed along a strong work ethic.

“We worked long hours, we worked weekends. We did electric, HVAC, plumbing,” Charlie said.

Bill accepted a seat, when elected, to the Board of Supervisors because he wanted to improve his community.

“It was a rough 12 years when he was on the board. People would call him all the time, even at night, ranting and raving. I don’t know how he did it,” Charlie said.

But he would listen.

“He was always positive. He was an optimist and saw the glass as half full. There are not so many of those people as there used to be,” Charlie said.

Charlies said Bill also passed that trait to him.

Vince Poling was the assistant county administrator when Bill was on the Board of Supervisors.

Poling recalled Bill as a leader in the county.

He agreed that Bill listened to what people had to say.

“It’s my opinion he worked hard for the residents of Shenandoah County. I thought a lot of him,” Poling said.

But Bill believed in play —  whether it was going out to dinners at restaurants or vacations.

Charlie remembers riding snowmobiles with his dad during trips to Montana in the late 80s and early 90s.

“The snow in Montana is deep. We had fun. There is a photo at the farm house of us during a trip,” Charlie said.

“I am going to remember the snowmobile years when he was full of life and strong.”

Debbie Cummins has a lot of memories of Bill Ortts and his family. Her family moved two doors down from them in 1980 while she was still in high school.

“They were always going out to dinner. I remember Charlie and I in the back of the family van complaining we were forced to listen to Bill’s elevator music,” she recalled laughing.

Bill was a personable man anyone could talk to, Cummins said.

He was a man who was family.

“For me and my kids he was an extended uncle. He has always been in the family,” Cummins said.

Cummins recalled the times Bill would give her children rides on his golf cart or tractor.

Her most vivid memory, however, remains watching Bill at his beloved fair riding in last year’s parade in honor of the fair’s 100th anniversary. He had just been released from the hospital that morning.

“Going to the fair now and not seeing him there will be different,” Cummins said. “He was an awesome man. It will take a while to get beyond.”

Bill was well respected among those involved in the fair, said Tom Eshelman, the fair’ general manager.

“He was the go to guy, even when he was not president. He will be missed,” Eshelman said.

Bill would always weigh and consider everything to make sure it was the right decision, Eshelman added.

Bill was president when the fair purchased neighboring property to allow it to expand.

“He knew they had to acquire it. He worked for the best interest of the fair,” Eshelman said.

Eshelman knew Bill for a long time through the fair business.

“The Shenandoah County Fair was highly respected in the fair industry,” Eshelman said.

Eshelman said he will always remember Bill Ortts as a man with integrity who had to be respected.