James “Clay” Forbes

James Clay Forbes was born the first son of Fred R. Forbes and Ethyle M. (Gentry) Forbes on Feb. 24, 1933, in Houston. He attended Houston Schools and graduated from high school in 1951. In high school, he played football, lettering all four years as an offensive and defensive lineman under Coach Harold Eberhart. He earned letters for his participation in basketball and track as well. Built large and rugged, he was well suited to line play. His foot speed or lack thereof, led to his high school nickname, “Beadle Bomb.” This was a reference to a Spike Jones song about a horse race in which the horse, “Beadle Bomb,” leads the field the whole race but ends up finishing last. He played trumpet in the band.

He went on to the University of Missouri in Columbia. He often resorted to hitch-hiking to get back and forth to school. He gave credit to those who helped him in this fashion for teaching him tolerance, maybe even fascination, for those who were just a little different. In addition to his major, geology, he enlisted in the U.S. Army ROTC program to help pay for his college tuition.

On Jan. 29, 1956, he married his high school sweetheart, Leta Marie Smith. They honeymooned in what was then a very Vegas like, Hot Springs, Ark. After 54 years of marriage the sign on his carport wall at home probably summed up his feelings for his bride the best… “Here lives an old fisherman with his best catch ever.”

They were blessed by a son, James Markus, on October the 12th of that same year.

After he earned his bachelor’s degree in geology, he was inducted into the Army where he was sent to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training and Fort Sill, Okla., to receive training in artillery warfare.

He went to work in Rolla following his military training and gained employment with the United States Geological Survey. Work in his chosen field was not as interesting as the study of the science. He was pursued by his brother, Marvin, and his father, Fred, to join the family business, and he applied to St. Louis College of Pharmacy (STLCOP), a well respected private school, from which Marvin would graduate.

Clay was admitted in 1958 – the same year he applied. While in pharmacy school he helped charter the Beta Delta chapter of one of the oldest, most respected professional pharmacy fraternities, Phi Delta Chi. Clay (AKA “Boogie Bear” to his pharmacy school friends) graduated in 1961, passing his Pharmacy Board Exam and receiving his Missouri State Pharmacy License later that year.

Despite the tragic death of his brother, Marvin, following a car accident in 1970, he and his father led their store into a position as an “anchor store” in downtown Houston. Years later, Blankenship’s Rexall Drug, or “Blanks” as it was still known, was renamed to Forbes’ Rexall Drug when, Mark, the fifth generation of the Forbes Pharmacy family, was accepted to St Louis College of Pharmacy. In a remarkable coincidence, the Phi Delta Chi Fraternity chapter Clay helped found was the very same one his son, Mark, chose to pledge after his 1975 admittance to STLCOP.

Clay’s steady, patient hand continued to grow the family business. After losing his father to cancer in 1984, Clay continued the traditions of service that had made such a difference in people’s lives. Personally making deliveries in every conceivable type of weather ensuring that people got the medicine that they needed to maintain their lives. He often left his dinner and his family, sometimes long after the store had closed, to fill a prescription for a patient. As often as not, the patient receiving the prescription was not a regular customer but Clay was the only pharmacist around that would open his store after hours to fill a single script. Never one to turn away a person in need, Clay simply gave away some medicine to help people who couldn’t afford it otherwise.

When Mark returned home in 1988 to help run the pharmacy, Clay patiently supported the change from the old defunct Rexall brand to the Health Mart pharmacy concept. Working together, as a team, Clay and Mark increased the business to better than four times its previous revenues. Despite his frustration at the ways he saw difficult insurance plans and greedy drug companies, Clay continued his service to his patients practically up to his death, just missing his 50th year of service as a community pharmacist. He worked full-time hours in the pharmacy as recently as April of 2010. He was loved and admired by the people he worked with for his patience, sense of humor, even temper and his love for them.

He was a longtime member of the First Christian Church of Houston, where he served his Lord and Savior, in many capacities, including service as a deacon and an elder. He loved teaching his teen-age Sunday school class. Perhaps most importantly he was a fine example of a loving Christian husband and father.

Clay always felt a need to serve his hometown whether it was as an “Indian” or a “Chief.” For several years he organized and scheduled the chamber of commerce cook shack at the Old Settlers Reunion. He served two separate terms as president of the chamber. He served as president of the Houston Development Co. for many years. Always willing to participate in any event he felt might have local benefit, he got dunked in water tanks, dressed up as a clown, passed out candy to trick or treaters, allowed his store windows to act as a sort of community bulletin board, let his front counter or the store’s soda fountain collect change for every conceivable cause or charity not to mention the number of area high school students who got their first job experience as a stock boy or cashier or soda jerk.

Clay loved the challenge of fishing. As a child his family went on many fishing excursions north into Minnesota and Canada. With his friend, Andy Millman, often accompanied by their families, they fished the waters of Canada in search of tasty Walleye or fighting Northern Pike. Often on Sunday afternoons you could see Clay, on the river, paddling his canoe, with a friend, hat pulled low over his eyes, searching for fish with rod and reel. If he caught some, great day, if not it was a great way to pass time with a good friend. Nearly every holiday weekend in summertime was spent on a lake somewhere camping with his family and his friend’s families.

Whether it was Table Rock, Norfolk, Bull Shoals or some remote lake in Canada, good friends or family, good weather or bad, we were there to have a good time.

He loved westerns and war movies on late night TV, the Hillbilly Bears, Guitarzan, float fishing, camping out, holiday weekends on the lake, making Eggs Benedict for everyone on New Year’s Day, horse races at Hot Springs, Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Smith family, midnight bowls of Raisin Bran, a fast paced techno-thriller of a book, studying the Bible, a fire in the fireplace, sailing his 19 foot “Flying Scot” day sailor, flying planes, going to Mizzou football games and tailgating, drinking coffee with the cast of characters at the store soda fountain, playing Pitch or Bridge and Civil War history. He loved life, his wife, his son and his God.

He was a mentor, a teacher, a husband, a father, a friend, a provider of health and a quiet leader,

The Chief of the Clan is gone. There will never be another of his ilk to stride this earth. Strength and patience, love and wisdom, Christian kindness and goodwill to all were his hallmarks. Good humor and an unflagging faith his trademarks. Long was his reign and long will the good memories linger. God rest his soul. Please spread the word, my friends, of his passing, so all may celebrate the man and his life.

Clay was preceded in death by his father, Fred R. and mother, Ethyle M. (Gentry) Forbes and his brother, Marvin; his sister-in-law, Mary Lou (Smith) Cook, her husband, Harold; Verle Dawson, his sister-in-law June’s husband; and his brother-in-law Alfred C. Smith.

He is survived by his wife, Leta Marie (Smith) and his son, Mark; his wife’s brothers and sisters Bob and Joyce Smith and their sons, Scot and Tim; Mary Lou and Harold’s children, Donald, Dennis and Deonna; June Dawson and her children, Ann Long and Steve Dawson; Sonya Cunningham and her children, David, Randy and Jimmy; and Alfred Smith’s wife, Judy, and their children, Chip, Susan and Paul. Numerous other grand and great-grand nephews and nieces.

Services are 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at Houston First Christian Church.Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, at Evans Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to First Christian Church ministries or Hospice of Care.

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death”- Leonardo Da Vinci

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply