Tribute to Ken Forde

‘HE WORKED WITHOUT ANY FANFARE BEHIND THE SCENES’ is how friend Sam Black described Ken Forde, pictured here on Moose Pond. Ken made significant contributions to Lakes Environmental Association.

When Ken Forde’s friends talked about him this week, two words came up over and over: No fanfare. As a selectman in Sweden, as treasurer of the Lakes Environmental Association or just working on his home on Stearns Pond, Ken’s focus was always on getting the job done right.

“He worked without any fanfare, behind the scenes,” said his friend Sam Black. “Didn’t make a fuss about anything. He wasn’t self serving. He didn’t have all the answers, but people trusted and respected him. He spoke softly, but you listened close.”

Ken died Nov. 11 of injuries sustained when a dead tree fell while he was stacking wood. His friends and family are just starting to realize how many ways he will be missed.

“There’s a void everywhere we look,” said Peter Lowell, LEA’s executive director, who called Ken “both a buddy and a father figure.”

Ken was born in Quincy, Mass., on June 11, 1936, the son of Roger and Marguerite Forde, and grew up in Milton. His wife Jane was a New Hampshire native and when they married in 1964, they moved to Dover, N.H., where they raised their sons, Scott and Mark. Ken worked as a systems analyst for Davidson Textron in Dover for 27 years.

The family spent weekends at their camp on Stearns Pond in Sweden. Ken began testing the pond’s water quality 30 years ago and he and Jane joined LEA in 1983. When asked (during a 2007 interview about volunteering) how he got involved with LEA, Ken just laughed.

“I had to go for a plumbing permit and Peter was the head honcho in plumbing permits for the Town of Sweden. He let me get away with a lot of things and I said, ‘This is a nice guy to know,’” Ken joked. “It kind of evolved from that. It’s not all the environmental stuff. It’s other things you get involved in, because this guy (Peter) forces you into it.”

Ken Forde

After Ken retired in 1993, he and Jane moved to Sweden and became, as former president Anne Wold once called them, “LEA’s most faithful volunteers.” Jane is a mainstay at the LEA office, doing everything from mailings to keeping the plants alive. Ken went on the LEA Board in 1994 and immediately became treasurer. He also became one of the hardest working members of the volunteer crew that completely rebuilt LEA’s Lake Center in 1994-95. Then one job followed another even after he left the LEA Board in 2009.

“Ken was ‘always there’ for LEA, doing whatever was needed — doing it quietly and without expectation of reward,” said former president Jean Preis, who also joined the LEA board in 1994. “He probably did thousands of jobs for LEA that many of us weren't even aware of. Ken was one of those people who have made LEA such a strong force for lake protection, and he did that with no fanfare.”

Ken not only helped at almost every LEA event, but he also enjoyed them. He was “remarkably open to challenges like building boardwalks through the Holt Pond swamp, waterproofing the office foundation, organizing LEA’s finances, kayaking Trull Brook or body surfing a Costa Rica breaker,” Lowell said. “He was the kind of friend and volunteer who was so dedicated that you could almost take him for granted — except when he was gone. Then his full nature and modesty became painfully clear.”

Ken had a wry, but also “gentle” sense of humor, Black said. He also had strong financial and organizational skills. It all helped him get people working together in Sweden and at LEA.

Ken served six years on the town’s Board of Selectmen, including five years as its chairman, then spent several more years on the budget committee and planning board. Black worked three years with Ken on Sweden’s Comprehensive Plan in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Being “from away” could have been a handicap in a small Maine town, Black said, “but once Ken had a chance to prove himself he erased that. He was calm, cool and collected. I think that sometimes he’d get frustrated, deep down. Everything wasn’t easy for him, but he would hash things out until he made sense of it.”

Julie McQueen, a Stearns Pond neighbor, succeeded Ken as secretary of Sweden’s Planning Board and as LEA treasurer. He kept working hard for LEA and for the Town of Sweden even after he gave up his formal positions, she said.

“He kind of set the standard for what it means to serve your community,” McQueen said. “He didn’t care about getting the credit. He cared about getting the job done well.”

Despite all the hours he volunteered, Ken also made time for the people and things he loved. He bought a pontoon boat so he could have fun with his family. In addition to Jane, he is survived by two sons, Scott and his wife Carol; Mark and his wife Heidi; grandchildren Samantha, Isabelle and Nate; a brother, Roger and his wife Ginny; five nieces and three nephews.

Ken also was a dedicated golfer and a member of the Lake Kezar Country Club. He especially enjoyed hosting the group he called his “September Golf Buddies,” and this fall, his buddy Lou Barnes said, Ken was playing the best golf of his life.

He also enjoyed countless hours on the water with Colin Holme, LEA’s assistant director, doing water testing throughout the Lakes Region.

“In terms of spending a lot of time with someone, he was just ideal,” Holme said. “He was so easy-going and so quiet. He just went with the flow.”

Ken probably would be uncomfortable if he could hear all the good things people are saying about him. He always insisted he gained as much as he gave from volunteering.

“You’re doing something that’s worthwhile,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”

Ken never expected or wanted praise for working hard, caring deeply and being on hand when help was needed. His friends say that’s exactly why he will be missed so much.

“I think Ken was one of those guys who operated maybe at a deep level,” Black said. “He didn’t need to make noise. He was just solid. Every time I looked at Ken, I’d think, ‘There’s no problem.’”

Donations in Ken Forde’s memory can be made to: Lakes Environmental Association, 230 Main St., Bridgton ME 04009.

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