JOHN FORBES Obituary (2021) – Cambridge, MA


FORBES, John Malcolm, “Jock” Long-time advocate for world peace and justice. Forbes, John Malcolm, “Jock”, at home with his family in Cambridge, 89, on July 19 with cancer. Jock died before his 67-year-old wife Ariadne was one month old. Family and friends cannot imagine one without the other. Their life experiences and love of music, education, family and home have given them a steadfastness and grace that will always resonate with all they have left behind. Educated at Exeter and Harvard and with an MA in history from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Jock has taught American, European and Russian history at high schools such as Choate, Buckingham Browne and Nichols. He has developed a comprehensive education program and has sought in his teaching to address the many contradictions and omissions inherent in recorded history. When he was nine, he lost his father who drowned at sea and has never been found. At the age of eighteen, he survived a near-fatal mountaineering accident that resulted in brain damage. These events contributed to a heightened awareness and acceptance of loss and ambiguity as a human condition. Other formative experiences included working with mentors and youth groups in Mexico and East London. He rarely spoke of himself and led a life of reflection, generosity and self-discipline, fostering these qualities in others by example. Jock was a longtime activist for world peace and justice. He was deeply involved in the nuclear freeze movement and has been recognized for his work as an advocate for global federalism, leader or significant associate of the United Nations Association for Greater Boston and the Foundation for a Federation. democratic world. He has also worked with members of UNESCO and locally with the Sustainable Cambridge Coalition and Mass Peace Action and was a founding member of Walden Earthnet, which brought together in dialogue those with divergent views. Together with his 47-year-old colleague Dr Winston Langley and others he also formed a World Citizens Party in the hope of inspiring greater understanding and a better voice for human rights, resources and the environment. He posted the quote at home: “Let’s plant dates, even though those who plant them may never eat them!” A spiritual center of gravity informing his daily life was the Cambridge Friends Reunion. Jock’s mother had been a prominent elder; he and Ariadne met for the first time, fell in love and got married there; for much of his life he attended Meeting and participated in its outreach activities. Father, friend, conscientious objector, activist and teacher, he embodied the call to “joyfully travel the world, responding to that of God in everyone”. Jock is also remembered for his love of music and his beautiful voice as he sang with his guitar a special repertoire of family and folk songs; for his skill in sailing, rowing, tying (and undoing) knots, and by many for his patient and kind teaching; and for his bright eyes, welcoming demeanor, appreciation of others, perseverance, strength and restraint. Although in his later years he experienced cognitive decline, he never lost these essential aspects of his character. He was a gentleman, a gentle man. Jock is survived by his loving children Cynthia, Anne, Rebecca, Malcolm and Lydia and their spouses and partners; grandchildren and great grandchildren; a sister Joan and her brother Charles; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his father John Malcolm Forbes, his mother Ethel Cummings (Forbes) Amory and his sisters Holly Forbes Leon and Beryl Forbes Eddy. The family warmly thanks the doctors who provided advice and care, as well as the hospice nurses and home helpers who came to the house (learn and sing songs that Jock sang to them) and who contributed. to allow him to stay in his beloved home. Donations can be made in Jock’s memory to any peace or environmental organization of your choice. A commemorative rally in the spring and details of an upcoming scholarship will be announced at a later date.

Published by Boston Globe December 24-26, 2021.


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