"If someone calls me Nick, I don't even bother to look," Fortunato said.
However, don't ask the 78-year-old lifelong resident of North Bergen how he got the moniker.
"I've been 'Smokey' since I was a kid," Fortunato said. "I don't know how I got the name, but that's me. Maybe because I had a smoky complexion as a kid, I don't know."
While Fortunato has enjoyed his life serving his hometown, first as a police officer for more than 30 years, then as a public servant as a township commissioner in charge of public safety, then as the town's director of Public Works, he's more proud of another fact - serving in the United States Army during World War II.
Fortunato was a member of the artillery that went to support the 106th Infantry during the famous "Battle of the Bulge" in Belgium in 1945.
"We were sent there and within 24 hours, two entire regimens were wiped out," Fortunato recalled. "You see all these movies and pictures about 'The Battle of the Bulge' and unless you were there, you have no idea. There was snow, fog. It was hell. The one movie, with Henry Fonda, I particularly hated, because they make it seem like he won the battle by himself. There was nothing about the guys in the trenches."
But it's that pride in serving his country that has made Fortunato appreciate his patriotism and the true meaning of Memorial Day more and more.
"I've been flying the American flag outside my house since the day I returned home," Fortunato said. "I rebuilt my home and purposely put the flagpole there."
"Smokey" Fortunato has also been a member of the North Bergen American Legion Post 33 and a member of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 2645 for many years.
When the American Legion suggested that Fortunato serve as the Grand Marshal to the North Bergen Memorial Day parade, it was an honor that Fortunato gladly accepted.
"It definitely caught me by surprise," Fortunato said. "I never thought I'd be selected. It's a great honor."
Fortunato retired from the North Bergen police department in 1979, then began his career as a public servant until he retired a few years ago.
Since his retirement, Fortunato has been able to go back to Belgium twice and visit the scene of the historic battle. He went back for the 50th anniversary seven years ago, then returned again a few years later, after making some friends in Belgium.
"They treated us like kings there," Fortunato said. "I saw a tank trap, with the teeth still in the air, just the way it was 50 years ago. It was still there after 50 years. But I made friends with people there and we went back and forth. I lost a lot of friends in battle there, too many to count. That's why Memorial Day will always have a special meaning to me."
Added Fortunato, "Our artillery unit was a pretty lucky outfit. We were wondering when our luck was going to run out, when we were going to get hit hard."
Fortunato was injured when the recoil of a weapon knocked him about 30 feet in the air. He spent some time in a hospital, then went back to battle.
Other than the injury, Fortunato was much like his last name - fortunate, to return home, where he built a family, with his wife, children and two grandchildren, whom now occupy a lot of his time.
For the Thursday night parade, which was scheduled to be held down Kennedy Boulevard from the high school to Town Hall, Fortunato expected to bring out his American Legion hat, windbreaker and shirt. He was ready to wear it with pride as the Grand Marshal.
"My family wanted to know what kind of suit I was going to wear," Fortunato said. "I told them I'm wearing my American Legion things. That's what I wanted and I want to respect them. It's our day to remember our fallen comrades."
The way it should be, throughout the weekend, especially now in a time of more national pride than perhaps since the days when Fortunato returned to North Bergen after World War II.
"We should all remember," Fortunato said.