By Anne Marie Rodriguez and Tony C. Diaz
Umatuna Si Yu’os
Longtime Father Dueñas Memorial School (FDMS) educator John Dennis Forbes was honored for 60 remarkable years of service as Catholic Schools Week 2019 culminated with an uplifting Catholic Educators Conference on Friday, Feb. 1 at the Veritas Hall of Dominican Catholic School in Yigo.
Recognized for his 60 years of service to FDMS and Catholic education, Forbes, 86, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the conference. His son, Father Eric Forbes, OFM Cap, provided a wonderful overview before the presentation of the award, describing his dad’s astonishing life and dedicated years of service.
More than 300 teachers, staff and administrators from the Archdiocese of Agaña’s 14 schools gathered for talks and breakout sessions led by two keynote presenters, Leslie G. Cohen, a well-known speaker, and Dr. Jane E. Bleasdale, the program coordinator for the McGrath Institute for Catholic Education at the University of San Francisco.
The biggest spotlight however, fell on Guam’s own Catholic education icon, the enduring John Forbes.
Forbes was born on May 2, 1932 in Peoria, Ill. to Walter Forbes and Lucille Elliott. At 18, he joined the United States Air Force and was based in Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. It was on island that Forbes met the woman he was to marry in 1953, Rosalind Marie Limtiaco. The couple bore three sons: former Speaker of the Guam Legislature Mark (FD ’71); +Carl (FD ’76); and Father Eric (FD ’80).
After the Korean War ended, Forbes was honorably discharged from the military. He went on to pursue a college degree, attending Columbia University in New York City for a time and studying history and Russian.
Forbes and his wife moved to San Francisco, Cali., according to Father Eric. In 1958, he obtained a bachelor of arts degree in history at San Francisco State University. The Forbes family relocated to Guam in 1959, where Forbes was unable to secure a job as a public school teacher.
“He was denied a job due to the hyper vigilance of military authorities who saw John Forbes’ college minor in Russian,” Father Eric explained. “It was still the Cold War era and the military still had a say in the local Guam government. The military officer looking over his record thought he could be a Russian sympathizer — or worse!”
Father Eric called his father’s situation “fortuitous” because as it turned out, Father Dueñas Memorial School was in dire need of lay teachers that very same year. Thus, John Forbes became the first lay teacher hired at Guam’s all boys Catholic high school.
“And [he] has remained at Father Dueñas since 1959; that makes 60 years this August,” Father Eric said. He is still at FDMS, even though for the last 19 years or so he has not drawn a salary nor has taught in the classroom, Father Eric said.
“For 40 years, he taught the social sciences, coached students in taking the SAT and ASVAB tests, figured out everyone’s GPA and assisted graduates in entering colleges or joining the military,” Father Eric said of his dad.
“He has taught many of Guam’s senators, judges, a few governors, doctors, lawyers, and every other profession, including priests,” he added.
When he retired from the classroom, Forbes continued helping with academic records and transcripts, opened the gate in the morning, made the morning coffee, picked up the mail, and ensured the copying machine worked properly.
“He was promoted from teaching to campus maintenance,” Father Eric said. “Students found out that the best gift to give John Forbes was a bottle of Drambuie.”
“John Forbes, this is your life,” Father Eric proclaimed as he ended his reflection on his father’s lifetime of service. “A man from Little Town America who chose to move to a little island in the Pacific to make Guam his home and teaching at Father Dueñas his only ambition. At Father Dueñas we say, ‘Fortes in Fide,’ ‘Strong in the Faith.’ Today we can say ‘Forbes in Fide.’”
A beautiful video and photo presentation dedicated to the awardee was shown on the giant projector screen at the conference. Afterward, Archbishop Michael Byrnes presented the 60-year Lifetime Service Achievement Award to Forbes, as the auditorium full of educators and staffers cheered and applauded.
In addition to the 60-year Lifetime Achievement Award, the archdiocese also recognized other educators and staff from our Catholic schools for their 25 years of service. They were Loida C. Pamintuan from Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School, Anthony J. Blas from Father Dueñas Memorial School, and Sister Versamin N. Calamiong, OP, of the Dominican Child Development Center.