Memorial set for former employee

Nichol Nelson

It has been almost two months since Ella Fort passed away, but the cubicle she occupied in the Office of Human Resources still stands empty.
Co-workers have turned the space into a makeshift memorial as they cope with the death of the 47-year-old human resource consultant. Her computer sits dark, but the silent keyboard is flanked by cards, pictures, poems and copies of Fort’s famous sweet potato casserole recipe.
Fort died of a stroke on Dec. 4 after a week in the hospital. Her colleagues will gather to remember her today from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the President’s Room at Coffman Union.
Fort began working at the University in fall, 1976. She worked her way up from a data entry position to human resource consultant. Fort’s position as a consultant made her highly visible around campus. Co-workers estimate that hundreds of people at the University knew Fort.
Human resource employees created a book to serve as a written memorial to Fort. The staff members filled more than 30 pages with remembrances of Fort, describing her as positive, flamboyant and wise.
“Talking with Ella was like talking with joy in person,” wrote Connie Kampf, a human resources employee.
David Johnson, director of the Employee Assistance Program, worked with Fort for 17 years. He said Fort was a positive person who was able to laugh at problems. Johnson compared her to the Maya Angelou poem, “Phenomenal Woman.”
Co-workers say they are still struggling to accept Fort’s death. The stroke occurred during the University’s Thanksgiving break and her funeral was in her home state of Mississippi. Norma Peterson, a human resources consultant, said she hopes the memorial Tuesday will serve as closure for those who are still grieving.
Peterson described Fort’s personality as a total package.
“She was a kind, good-hearted soul who was also very opinionated and political.”
Peterson smiled as she talked about Fort. She said Fort was known for her laugh, a loud peal that often carried throughout the normally quiet office.
Fort is survived by her husband, William, and their two sons, as well as her sister Juanita.