His Life

Obituary (long form)

Forbes Leland, 79, of Annapolis MD, passed away on November 4, 2020. Often referred to as a gentle giant, Forbes, at nearly 6’8” was clearly larger than life. 

Even at an early age, Forbes had a keen eye, instinctively knowing what he wanted. And it was usually off the beaten path. After the death of his grandparents, Allan and Josephine Forbes, he was asked if there was something he’d like to remember them by. He chose two ship models found in a musty back room, leaving relatives scratching their heads. One is now featured in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as one of only two existing glass ships of its kind (sail, rigging, and anatomically correct crew) built circa 1844. The other (“a tiny gem”) is equally treasured in the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. 

Forbes started sailing in Beverly MA at 9 yrs and lived on his 43’ cutter-rigged sloop Jade for several years in Annapolis, soloing up and down the East coast. He lost three fingers on his left hand trying to save his boat during a microburst. His unfulfilled dream was to sail single-handed to Bermuda. 

Besides, as he would say, “having a lot of salt water in his veins,” Forbes had rhythm in his bones. As a teenager he played drums in his high school band and in summers for the Herbie Sulkin Band. He was a natural musician, always jamming with friends, playing drums, flute and sax in the Summer Street Jazz Band at the Folkway in Peterborough, NH. He was on the Board of the Annapolis Symphony and taught “The History of Jazz” (with long waiting lists) at Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, MD.

A graduate of Boston University, Forbes was always intellectually curious and knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics. A golfing friend said he would hear a bird call, and right away knew who it was. In Annapolis he was engaged in philosophical seminars on the Great Books at St. John’s College and took a range of courses including poetry at the Peer Learning Partnership, Anne Arundel Community College. Besides his jazz class, Forbes taught 'American Myth and Western Movies’ there, delving into deep questions about our heritage as Americans. (Does anyone have more information on the courses he took, taught?)
Forbes could have been an actor, or a comedian— or both. His flair for the dramatic— operatic voice, a multitude of accents— could bring you to tears of laughter. He took great enjoyment in his role of reading to the blind on books on tape, taking on a variety of characters. (Does anyone have more information on this, eg the organization he did this for?)
Forbes was most at home in nature, not only at sea but especially Willard Pond in Antrim, NH where, in the early 70’s, he lived spartanly in a rustic cabin. He tried to protect the 100 acre lake from being poisoned by rotenone, and spearheaded regulation to prevent motorized boats from polluting the peace. His grandmother Elsa Tudor bequeathed much of the land around the lake to the NH Audubon Society as a place of peace for all beings. Due largely to Forbes’s tireless perseverance and dedication, the area is now totally protected from development and has become NH Audubon’s largest Sanctuary. He worked as an agent for the NH Forest Society and was on the Board of NH Audubon.

Forbes will be missed for his dry and quirky sense of humor, his captivating (self-deprecating) stories, his amusing flair for the dramatic, his broad intellect and stimulating conversations, his deep respect for women, diversity and the Earth, and especially his kind, caring and generous heart.

His loving memory lives on with his two sisters, Lysa Leland and Daphne L. Borden, his nephew Rob Borden and his wife Jenny, their two sons, Benjamin and Sawyer, and with a multitude of relatives and friends. His parents, Phyllis and Tudor Leland, and Marilyn Eason, his beloved partner of thirty years, predeceased him. Contributions can be made to the New Hampshire Audubon Society (for land protection), McLane Center, 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, NH 03301.