OCEAN COUNTY – She could be described as bubbly, eccentric, vivacious and beautiful, but one thing was for sure: Sondra Fortunato also known as “Miss Liberty,” was larger than life. Sadly, Micromedia Publications has learned that she has passed away.
Miss Liberty was a special friend to Jersey Shore Online/Micromedia Publications and our thoughts are with her family and many friends at this time. She was once the unofficial cheerleader of the New York Giants and known for various meetups with celebrities and sports personalities in that role.
She was a resident of Toms River and that is where she was also well known if not an Ocean County celebrity in her own right.
Her appearances at special events such as the annual Toms River Halloween Parade always brought cheers as she traveled on a float or a car. One year, there was a pint-sized version of herself in the parade in the form of a young girl who emulated her Miss Liberty attire and famous decorated car.
Fortunato’s vehicle was well known. It was adorned with placards, newspaper articles (many of them from Micromedia) and she also previously took part in Southern Ocean County film festivals where some news clips of her were compiled into a video.
Other nicknames included Miss Football and Miss Millenium, Miss Super Bowl, Miss World Series, Miss NFL, Miss Body Beautiful U.S.A. and Miss Opening Day but beyond her many monikers, she was known for her big smile, flirty nature and the atmosphere of fun she brought to everyone around her.
She was patriotic, friendly, loved sports and loved people. It was nearly impossible to have a short conversation with her as she enjoyed communicating with people and also loved animals.
Sadly, last year she received the devasting news that she had developed Stage 4 cancer which destroyed her left eye and ultimately led to her death.
The expenses associated with her treatment also led to the loss of her home and she needed to have additional surgery to treat her illness. A GoFundMe campaign was quickly created to assist her with her medical treatment.
Miss Liberty was spotlighted in various magazines including Weird New Jersey for her various appearances and background. Her background included a stint as a Playboy Bunny and being an official or unofficial mascot for various athletic teams across the state and nationwide.
Miss Liberty once told Micromedia that she was hired to cheer and fire up the crowd for sports teams. She was also featured early on her life in muscle magazine covers and won the Miss Body Beautiful USA contest. Fortunato had a collection of baseballs from her time when she was known as Miss World Series. She was also known as Miss Kentucky Derby.
Spotting her car on Route 37 while you were in traffic seemed to make things less frustrating and many waved and beamed their horns to say hi. She was an attention getter no matter where she went and she enjoyed receiving that attention. She knew the attraction of her vehicle that she once described as being as popular as the El Torino driven by 1970s TV cops Starsky & Hutch.
“People see that car and they know I am behind it,” she remarked in an article in Weird New Jersey. She explained to the media that she didn’t want to bother removing the many signs adhered to her car (she had two such Miss Liberty mobiles) so she taped them on permanently for parades and special events.
Miss Liberty would often wear gowns and a tiara and attire that would extenuate her striking figure and bright smile. She commented during parade preparations about some possible and existing dress malfunctions but always with a laugh.
Fortunato who was born and raised in the Garden State, told this reporter that her niece was married to the owner of Viacom and a brother who is a heart surgeon and two sisters. Her grandparents hailed from Johnson and Johnson.
She also said she knew OJ Simpson. She also said she liked former President Donald Trump who at one time said he knew who she was.” She also met Tug McGraw and said she was a guest at an event of Bill Clinton.
“I’m different, I know it and that’s a good thing. No one can say I’m average,” she once told this reporter. She loved people and they didn’t need to be famous, they just needed to be nice to her and most people couldn’t resist being drawn to her electric personality.
She was also known for her generosity despite her own financial challenges. She would mail gifts to the Micromedia Publications staff including caps, slippers, placards and lollipops with her face on the wrapping. It was always a surprise to open those packages and to learn what was inside.
Miss Liberty will be missed.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced but when we have the information, we will let you all know.