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Date of Passing: Mar 26, 2018

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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 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 humour 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 two of her dearest childhood friends were known as the three chicklets. The other two chicklets (Sally Swenson and Judy Adamson) remained life-long friends. Caring for others continued through her life - Ros always supported the people around her. 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 three 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. 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 favourite 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 2:00 p.m. 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 and Pam; her nephews - John, Sean, Jamie and George; her stepdaughters - Catherine, Roberta and 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 - Thanks Mom - you are an inspiration and truly missed.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on May 23, 2018

Condolences & Memories (3 entries)

  • Ros was an occasional but constant part of our lives from Winnipeg to Banff to Kelowna. Mum's connections to the Johnson family were lifelong, and every so often the beautiful Ros would visit. She and Alex always came for a Christmas drink in Banff. They, with Chris, came to my wedding in Calgary. When we started attending the Ironman in Kelowna, Ros would always have us for drinks or dinner. She was kind and gracious and always interested in what we were doing. She was a talented artist, and as an artist myself, I enjoyed talking about art with her and missed her when she moved to New York. Her wedding gift was a print she had created, and it hangs in our home to this day. I feel fortunate to have known her. - Posted by: Hope Smith (friend) on: Sep 17, 2020

  • I met your mother because of an illustration in small catalogue for an exhibition of Chinese costume I organized for the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in 1977. Unknown to me your mother, her table saw and router and sheets of heavy BC plywood found inspiration for an imaginative, and totally original sculpture installation at the Kelowna Art Museum. On a trip to visit you she made an appointment to meet me during a stopover in Toronto in 1979. She wanted to see the originals of some of her plywood creations. She brought along a set of slides of her work and the installation in BC. I instantly asked if I could purchase "Blue Warrior." She said "yes;" a few weeks later a large package arrived at my home without an invoice, but a brief "thank you" note. The piece has had a pride of place in every home I have lived in since. We corresponded occasionally and I met with your mother one more time after I moved Calgary in 1983. I made a trip to Kelowna to visit the director of the Art Museum and we paid a visit to the studio and enjoyed a cup of tea and a good visit at 345 Uplands Drive. Ironically I attempted to locate Rosalind Robertson earlier this spring as I was attempting to update my will and thought "Blue Warrior" might best be placed in a Canadian museum after my death. I contacted the Kelowna Art Museum, but they could offer no help. Internet searches proved quite futile until last night when I entered "Rosalind Robertson artist" on an image search and found the link to this site. I regret I did not get a chance to tell your mother how much her vision and generosity have meant and continue to mean to me. John Vollmer, New York City - Posted by: John Vollmer (acquaintance) on: Sep 28, 2018

  • I spent some wonderful times with your mom when she was with my Uncle Alex, while they lived in Kelowna. She had a wonderful studio at their home and her work was stunning! One early evening, with my Dad (Ernie) and Mom, we were sitting out on their deck when we were almost struck by lightening! A tree next to the house was struck. The windows frames were shattered at the front of their house. We were almost knocked off our chairs.... It was terrifying. We then went out for a lovely and calming dinner. She visited me in North Vancouver (after Alex's death) and I remember she brought the most wonderful book to my young son Sean. I attended one of her showings when she was involved in saving the rain forests. She was a wonderful woman and lived an amazing life. I am sorry for your loss. Step Niece .....Jane McKee, Sechelt, B.C. - Posted by: Jane McKee (Step niece) on: May 24, 2018

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