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RALPH MURRAY FORBES

RALPH MURRAY FORBES Obituary
FORBES, Ralph Murray Of Milton, MA and Mt. Airy, NC, passed away peacefully on December 30, after a long battle with cancer.

Mr. Forbes was raised in Sherborn, MA, and attended Milton Academy and Harvard University. Most of his business career was spent at Bank of Boston, where he moved from the Officers Training Program to the position of First Vice President of Investment Banking, a position he held until his retirement.

During the Ford Administration Mr. Forbes was appointed to serve as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury where he was placed in charge of the National Debt. The New York Times, in an article announcing his position stated, "a young proper Bostonian at the age of 35 is the greatest borrower in the history of the world. Happily for Mr. Forbes, the debt will not be his. The debt will be owed by the US Treasury". After a two-year stint in Government, Mr. Forbes returned with his wife, Nathalie "Tally" Saltonstall Forbes and their four young children to his beloved Boston.

The great-great-grandson of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Boston Industrialist John Murray Forbes, Ralph Murray Forbes was named for both antecedents. With regularity, Mr. Forbes stressed Emerson's principles of "Self Reliance" and reverence for the presence of God in nature. Ralph referred to chores such as trail maintenance and splitting wood for the furnace in the family home as character building. He took great pride in the character he thus cultivated in his four children, and later in his ten grandchildren. Sunday "crack of dawn" mornings of manual labor would be followed by brisk walks on the woodland paths behind his Milton home, often with all but the youngest yielding handsaws and tools for keeping the trails clear. Mr. Forbes believed one should endeavor to leave any place in slightly better condition than one found it. A proponent of Yankee ingenuity, he made sure each of his family members had more than a passing familiarity with axes, chainsaws, clippers, cleaning products, duct tape and basic operation of all sorts of machinery.

Mr. Forbes cared deeply about his community of family and neighbors. Locally, he sat on the Board of Directors of the Museum of the American China Trade, and was an elected Town Meeting Member in Milton. Internationally, Mr. Forbes turned his attentions to the International Peace Academy founded by his aunt Ruth Forbes Young. While living in Mt Airy, NC, Mr. Forbes served as deacon at his church and was a regular attendee of Rotary meetings.

Mr. Forbes enjoyed active pursuits. Friends and family have shared tales of shooting sporting clays off the front porch of his Cape Cod family home and winter off-piste ski trips in Europe and the Northeast. He was an elegant and aggressive skier who somehow managed to carry his own equipment and smoke his beloved cigarettes while trudging up Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington, an incline too steep for a ski lift-all for one or two adrenaline fueled runs. But his true love was the ocean. Whether at the helm of a boat under sail or engine, Mr. Forbes took care in teaching respect for the waterways and how to properly navigate them. In quiet moments, Mr. Forbes was an enthusiastic and gifted singer. At family gatherings his resonant bass voice would provide a strong grounding to the madrigals his family would sing together on summer evenings gathered by the fire. His rendition of "Oh Shenandoah" was a family favorite and he would often sing it in the kitchen as other family members washed dishes across the room.

During Mr. Forbes' retirement, he was an active volunteer tutoring at risk students in math. He took personal pride in the progress of his students. On numerous occasions, he remarked perhaps he had missed his calling and should have pursued a vocation in teaching rather than banking.

A gentle man of few words but many stories, he was as comfortable acting as host around a finely set table as he was nibbling a chocolate chip cookie on a beach blanket surrounded by extended family. Ralph would share when encouraged at family gatherings around the table, but also was content to sit and listen. His eyes would often glisten as he took in the adventures of the day shared by his children and grandchildren. A teacher yet also a rebel, with a mischievous smile he would read aloud Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" and Hilaire Belloc's "Cautionary Tales for Children". His horrified but rapt audience was often far too young and close to their bedtime to digest the lessons contained in the tales of overly curious elephants, or lions devouring poorly behaved little boys.

Mr. Forbes leaves behind four children brimming with character: Suzannah "Sukey" Palfrey Forbes of Mill Valley, CA, James Knocke Forbes of Portsmouth, NH, Heidi Cabot Forbes Oste of Tiburon, CA, and Laura Forbes Hill of Ruxton, MD, along with ten equally character-filled grandchildren. His wife of 20 years and the mother of his children, Nathalie Saltonstall Forbes of Concord, MA and his wife of 16 years Erika Rowe of Mt Airy, NC. He also leaves two sisters, Dorothy Forbes Morse and Perry Forbes Williamson. He was pre-deceased by his brother Haven Emerson.

Memorial Services will be held in late Spring 2019.
Published in The Boston Globe on Jan. 7, 2019
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