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John Ripley Ford, 93; Conservationist Helped Create Nature Centers

September 08, 2006|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

John Ripley Forbes, 93, who helped establish more than 200 nature centers and museums around the country, died of a heart attack Aug. 26 in Atlanta. He was 93.

Much of his conservation work was done through two organizations he founded: the Natural Science for Youth Foundation and the Southeast Land Preservation Trust.

Born Aug. 25, 1913, in Chester, Mass., Forbes learned to love the outdoors as a child, taking long walks with his father.

He attended the University of Iowa and Bowdoin College but didn't graduate. While at Bowdoin, he went on an Arctic expedition in 1937 to study birds.

As president of the William T. Hornaday Foundation, which later became the Natural Science for Youth Foundation, he helped establish museums in Kansas City, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; Fort Worth, Nashville, San Jose and elsewhere.

In Sacramento, he set up an animal lending library, where instead of books, students could borrow skunks, rabbits and turtles for a week.

"I came to think of him as the Johnny Appleseed of the nature centers," Ann Bergstrom of Georgia's Chattahoochee Nature Center told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He worked tirelessly all of his life to raise the necessary funding and build the necessary coalitions to bring these very important preserves and nature centers together."

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