“If I were ever to retire, I thought I’d like to have a wood shop that makes sawdust and wood chips,” Bob said with a smile. Given his schedule of starting the day at 6 a.m. in his Fountaintown Gas Co., Inc. office, retirement is not likely to happen anytime soon. Now 88 years old, Bob continues to contribute to the success of the company he founded, but the road to doing so was not an easy one.
Born in Westland in Hancock County, Bob was raised and has lived his life in Morristown of Shelby County. After graduating from Morristown High School in 1949 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1953, he assumed the family mechanical, electrical and appliance business, now being operated by a fifth generation.
In 1957, Bob married Sue Myer. Sue, a secretary at General Electric, left her job to join Bob in the business, and with her bookkeeping expertise it began to grow.
At the same time, the oil business was still in full swing, and Bob became a Marathon distributor of heating fuel, farm fuel and lubricant products.
In 1966, Bob said, “I got the crazy idea that small towns needed natural gas to survive. It was the only way they could attract new business and industry.”
With that, Bob expanded his business once again, and Fountaintown Gas Company was born. South Eastern Indiana Natural Gas Co. was added in 1981. The first winter two customers were served. Today the public utility serves 23 communities in seven counties.
“Of all of the different things that I have done, I never knew what I was doing and wasn’t smart enough to know I didn’t know what I was doing,” laughed Bob.
On June 24, 2015, Bob lost his helpmate and wife of almost 58 years. The Wortmans have contributed humbly and quietly to Morristown’s vibrancy. “I’d be nothing without the people of my community. They’ve done so much for my family and my business over the years,” he said.
Morristown is not the only benefactor. Numerous charities in Hancock and Shelby counties have gratefully been on the receiving end of Bob and Sue’s generosity.
A believer in endowment, Bob has established several funds at both the Hancock County Community Foundation and the Blue River Community Foundation in Shelby County. In fact, it was his creation of the most recent endowment fund to benefit the Imagination Library Program that allowed HCCF to get to the finish line of its $2 million endowment goal.
Bob has been honored with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, The Distinguished Hoosier award from The State of Indiana and is a 33rd degree Mason. He is a past commander of the American Legion, a member of the Marine Corp League, and past president of Morristown High School Alumni Association and PTA. He currently serves as a board member of Shelby County Senior Services, Shelby County Library Foundation, the Hancock Health Foundation and Ohio Valley Gas Corporation boards. Bob is credited for bringing Rock Steady Boxing to Shelby and Hancock counties and the Dolly Parton Imaginary Library to Shelby County.
His generosity and love for Sue has supported the sustainability of both Hancock Health’s Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center and Major Health Partner’s Sue Ann Wortman Nephrology Center.
“Everything I give will stay in Shelby and Hancock counties. These communities have made it possible for me to help others me.”