Mary Rosalind Robertson (nee Johnson) aka Ros Forbes

My mom died on March 26, 2018 in Woodstock, NY at the age of 86 in a home and community she loved. She told her aide she needed to visit her mother in the hospital, got up from her bed, took a couple of steps, sat down, and passed away. She had an amazing, varied, and rich life. There could not have been a more kind, thoughtful, curious, and intelligent parent, friend, spouse, and citizen. Grace and a wry sense of humor accompany her into the next life.

For those of you who did not know my mom or would like a refresher, let me start at the beginning. She was born to Marie and Ken Johnson in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1931. She was the youngest of three sisters. Her older sisters, Elizabeth (Liffy) and Margaret (Mags) were strong willed and successful women that stood out as role models for their younger sister. Her mother and father (my grandparents – whom the grandchildren called Gubin and Neeno – I’m not sure why) were successful professionals that imbued mom with ethics, kindness, charity, a focus on working to achieve outcomes, and love of life.

Growing up in Winnipeg, she and 2 of her dearest childhood friends were known as the 3 chicklets. The other 2 chicklets (Sally Swenson and Judy Adamson) remained life-long friends. Caring for others continued through her life – Ros always supported the people around her.

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My mother enjoyed two marriages. One, to my father (Peter Forbes) and the second to the love of her life, Alex Robertson. She was a beautiful, engaging, and intelligent woman and her love of life extended to all her relationships.

Ros was a hard worker and an amazing single parent. While she had to work to provide for herself and her young son, she rose to the pinnacle of her profession as Winnipeg’s Chief City Planner and, at the time, Winnipeg’s most senior female civic servant.

Mom constantly challenged herself to learn new things. Initially, she attended the Grosvenor school and then to Balmoral Hall school in Winnipeg and graduated in 1948 (Rupert’s Land School at the time). I came across her 3 winning entries in the annual 1948 Rupert’s Land photo contest and was thrilled to see a natural aesthetic that came through her life’s work. She went on to the University of Manitoba where she was graduated in architecture and a masters in town planning. In later years, she completed two undergraduate degrees in fine arts (UBC and Alfred University) and a Master of Fine Arts (SUNY New Paltz). Mostly, she liked to learn through her own experimentation and creation. Her last body of work was based on a collaboration with the ocean and they produced beautiful art together. Here’s one of our favorites –

She used inks and amazing handcrafted papers; allowing them to mix together in the ocean to make extraordinary art. She drew on data and her spirit leading her to realize the ocean was a living being with whom she could work. Her favorite place to make art was Sammy’s Beach on Long Island. She produced some of her best work there and we’ll bring her ashes to Sammy’s so she can be together with her work partner. We’ll have a showing of her work at 2pm on June 2, 2018 at her home at 23 Library Lane in Woodstock, NY. If you can attend, we’d love to see you.

She is survived by her son – Chris Forbes, his wife Louise and her two amazing grandsons – Kenneth and Douglas; her nieces – Lin, Sandi, Pam; her nephews – John, Sean, Jamie, George; her step daughters – Catherine, Roberta, Janet; her step grandchildren – John, Alex, Becky, Daniel, Struan, Gavin, Chris, and Richard; a special shout out to Abena and Marilynn who comforted Ros daily; and a body of personal work that inspires me every time I see and think about it.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in my mom’s name to the Woodstock Artists Association – woodstockart.org.

Thanks Mom – you are an inspiration and truly missed.

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