Don Forbis - Photo courtesy of Darryl Larson Good bye Don, we will miss you so very much,...thanks for the memories!!
Don Forbis - This is one of my favorite photos of Don and Judi; 2006 with Ansata Nile Pharaoh courtesy of Darryl Larson
Don Forbis - Don with our Jack Russell "Cutty" who always thought Don wanted him to sit in his lap!
Don and Judi - Don and Judi with Pyramid Society Board members at the Egyptian Show in 2006
Joe and Sharon Ferriss. - Joe and Sharon Ferriss.
Don Forbis - The 2008 Egyptian Event theme was "Celebrating 50 years of Ansata"; not only had Don and Judi been breeding Arabian horses for 50 years they were also married 50 years in 2008! The Pyramid Foundation organized a memorabilia section in their exhibitor's booth with many items provided by Yvette Vanetta and Sheila Theriot; long time employees of Ansata. Joe Ferriss wrote a book in tribute to Don and Judi call "Dream Journey" and donated it to The Pyramid Foundation in order to raise money.
Don Forbis - Don and Judi receiving the Trustees "Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Howell Wallace, President of the Board of Trustees in 2008.
Don Forbis - The ever present can of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi in Don's hand!
Don Forbis - During the Egyptian Event in 2008 at the Ansata barn party the bronzes of Ansata Ibn Halima and Ansata Halim Shah were unveiled by artist Karen Kasper.
Don Forbis - Ray Roberts introducing Don and Judi during the 2008 Egyptian Event Barn Parties afternoon!
Sheila Theriot and Yvette Vanetta - Photo courtesy of Darryl Larson
Elizabeth Taylor with Rudy Valentino - The incomparable Elizabeth Taylor with Rudy Valentino Photo courtesy of Richard T. Bryant
Don Forbis - Photo taken in February 2008; Doha, Qatar in the Heritage Library
A Tribute to Don Forbis
January 13th, 2009
A Tribute to Don Forbis: "Thanks for the Memories"
By Christie Metz
A Tribute to Don Forbis: "Thanks for the Memories"
After talking with Judi soon after Don passed away the two of us began recalling unique "Don" stories; we laughed and cried together, it helped to ease the loss of Don. Out of our conversations in the following days the idea grew to ask friends to write down their personal memories of Don to be shared. Judi and I identified some of the questions we would use to trigger those memories so they too could enjoy remembering. Off I went to my computer to email the questions to invite folks who knew Don well to share their personal memories. Our idea is to create a "Memory Scrapbook"; a written tribute to this very important man within our straight Egyptian Arabian horse community.
This "Memory Scrapbook" will be shared with those at the memorial service in Mena, Arkansas on January 10, 2009 as well as online at Arabhorse.com for those who were unable to attend. It is our hope you too will remember Don through the words of his friends; laughing and enjoying.
Don was a very unique and colorful man; one who had a profound influence on many people from all over the world as well as in a variety of professions and walks of life. He was a very talented and gifted individual who utilized all those attributes and because of these gifts his legacy is paid forward in so many ways.
His talents as an engineer will continue with "Port-a Stall/Barn company and the gigantic hot walker for stallions that remains at Ansata today. His driving skills are legend and there are few who rival his ability to "thrill" his passengers. The love he felt for animals and the care he showed to them is evident to all who witnessed him interacting with his three legged dog, Beau or saw him with the stallion Ansata Iemhotep as he won Supreme Champion Stallion at the Egyptian Event. In the last few years his newest "pet" project was a blond female named Elizabeth. This Chihuahua metamorphosed from an aloof and cranky dog into an amazing companion for Don; she became his caretaker and she took her duties very seriously. He was not above bribing her with food at the dinner table to gain her trust and affection and the result was that she gave Don her total devotion. Liz went to see Don daily at the last and lay right by him during her visits.
The incomparable Elizabeth Taylor with Rudy Valentino
Photo courtesy of Richard T. Bryant
I used to love hearing him say to Judi and me "You girls, if only you would slow down enough to focus there isn't anything you could not accomplish"! Or the "Now Judi, this is how we ought to go about this"!
My first memory of Don is when I visited Mena to see an Ansata Ibn Halima daughter and to see their famous stallions. Judi and I stayed up quite late in the night talking of horses and life in general. In the mornings Don would say to us "How late did you two stay up? It seems like you never went to bed because you are still talking"! "Boy oh boy can you two talk"! He would repeat this on many occasions over the years.
Don loved that farm and enjoyed showing it to you whenever you visited; he loved telling stories about the different staff and the experiences they created for Don and Judi during their employment. Some stories were astounding and they were always entertaining. He loved the earth moving equipment or any machine for that matter; as evidenced by all the different types of vehicles seen there on the property. I know he was a regular at "Fat Boys Tire Center" because the rocky roads were forever ruining tires!
Several years ago he mourned when an ice storm destroyed so many of the beautiful trees on the farm; the clean up was a huge undertaking. He loved to recall the change in scenery from the house to the barns when they first built Ansata. He told Henry and me that after the ice storm he saw that he and Judi could once again see the vista of the barns as they had when they first moved into the house. The setting for Ansata is in beautiful country indeed. However, a vivid personal recollection of Arkansas is rocks that reproduced over night and every type of fly in size, shape and color imaginable. All of this along with the gorgeous mountains, abundant wildlife and sunsets to end your day by! The extremes and drama of this land echoes the lives that Don and Judi have led, Mena is a perfect place for them.
I cherish the memories of Don checking in with me when our farm was being built in Naples, Florida. He knew it was a huge task and how stressed I was during this project so he would call me now and then to touch base. We both enjoyed talking about building structures and the different requirements for weather related issues. Don always had great practical suggestions for construction! Judi was not so helpful in that way but she was great for adding hilarity by pretending to be your new neighbor calling to complain about the Muscovy ducks and the mess they made on her patio! She really loved to fool Henry by being a government agent for the EPA or some other agency. Of course we both fell for these gags at least once.
Now that we live in California I will remember with fondness Don's last visit which was during Thanksgiving in 2006. He complimented us on our breeding program and encouraged Henry and me to continue striving for improvement while maintaining the special characteristics of the straight Egyptian Arabian horse. Don offered suggestions and saw things to compliment that we had not even noticed.
His gentleness with me when I was a balloon shape from treatment for a blood disease was very touching; he was always positive, saying to me "you will beat this"!
For me I will remember almost twenty years of his contributions to our lives in a myriad of ways. Not only with the breeding of Arabian horses which Henry and I both enjoyed hearing his thoughts and experiences on but his basic interest in us "kids". His sharing of his own life experiences not only to entertain but to benefit you, there was knowledge and wisdom shared. He cared deeply and you felt like family whenever you were with him and Judi.
Family is not only made up of the one you are born into but it is added to with those whom you adopt and those who adopt you along life's journey. Don was rich in family because he adopted so many into his own personal family. I realized this after two men whom I respect tremendously recently shared that they consider Don a father figure; a wonderful mentor. Don adopted so many of us into his family; he truly was a father/mentor in many, many ways.
In the Mideast I have heard Don and Judi referred to as the Mother and Father of the Arabian horse; for sure they hold this position not only there but around the world. It is easy to see their influence on the straight Egyptian horses but less obvious to is the ability to measure their influence on the humans in their lives. Neither one of them boasted about this; or in my mind realized their impact on so many lives through the horses. It is fitting to pay tribute to Don and acknowledge his contribution to those of us who were adopted into his family by celebrating his memory. Thank you Don for being a part of my life, you will be sorely missed.
"For me",... by Judith Wich-Germany
"When I learned the sad news, so many memories were running through my mind - first of all scenes from the shows in Qatar where I always enjoyed so much spending time with Don and Judi... then my visit to Ansata and the Egyptian Events in Kentucky... the touching moment of Iemhotep's victory. I will never forget the sight when Don proudly led this magnificent stallion through the arena. I also thought back to the Aachen show in 2002 and Don and Judi's visit here at my farm, Orienta Arabians afterwards. Then later on the show in Dubai and our little tour through the shopping center... There are so many dear memories, such a multitude of big events, as well as small details.
Don was a very special person. I so much admired his kindness, warm heart and wisdom.
His advice was always very important for me. I will continue to follow his knowledgeable hints and will sadly miss him calling me a "little girl". Farewell!"
'Thanks for the Memories'
I didn't have the chance to travel to Ansata on that first trip many years ago, but David has special memories of his time with you both! Seeing the horses and taking the tour of your barn was very special for him and we fashioned many of the components of our barn from yours. Seeing the stallions and spending time with you and Don are memories he will always hold dear. Don took David into the stall to see Ansata Ibn Sudan and WOW - what a moment. We still have many pictures of that visit and it was the beginning for us of a life long love for the Arabian horse and the many friends we have met along the way. David has talked about the many pleasant conversations he had with Don over the years - I think they had a wonderful connection.
I never saw Don at a show or event when he didn't greet me with a warm smile - he always seemed happy to see me. 'Suave' is definitely the word! So handsome and always the gentleman, and I have to say I thought he looked especially wonderful at this past Event and I told him so. Little did I know that we would not be able to visit ever again.
I hope that you know we continue to keep you close to our hearts and we will always consider knowing Don a great honor - our affection for him and friendship with him will live on in the years to come.
With Love and Sympathy,
David and Martha Lucas, USA
"Driving Mr. Don" by Gulsun Sharif, Egypt
Driving back with Judi and Don from Lexington to Mena:
I remember once he had a tape by Anne Murray which he played non-stop all the way, saying that she was his favorite singer. Of course, by the time we reached Mena, I had memorized every single song and even though it was a really good tape, for a long time thereafter, I shuddered every time I heard one of these songs!
Another time, just before our return to Mena, we had lunch at Michele Albina along with his lovely family, at Buckram Oak. Before we left, Michele whipped up for Judi and me a delicious garlic dip (tomeya in Arabic) and gave it to us in a plastic container. Some time later, Judi and I got hungry and I opened up that container. The very potent fumes wafted across to Don who was driving and of course he nearly had a heart attack! He yelled at me to cover up that box immediately and continued grumbling for quite a few miles.
Don's idea of taking us shopping in Mena was to drive us to Wal-Mart and wait for us half an hour in the car. Never rushed through a store so fast!
(The following memory as seen in a posting on www.straightegyptians)
I first met Judi and Don in late 1967 when I was a young and impressionable 20 year-old. I was star struck by this beautiful so multi-talented young woman and this very handsome tall man who looked a lot like Burt Lancaster though, in all loyalty, I preferred Don! ...and of course, the connection with the horses was magic. Don was working for Halliburton then, and they were living in a wonderful old villa practically across from the Pyramids, which Judi named Villa Akhenaton and Casuarina. Judi and I started work on the Abbas manuscript so I would often spend the night at their house and it was there that Don wickedly introduced me to Cuba Libres and Manhattans under the very disapproving eye of Omar, their manservant. How grown-up and sophisticated I felt!
There are too many memories: staying with them in Great Yarmouth where Don was transferred after Cairo; Judi took me round to visit Mr. Musgrave Clark as well as other farms, and we once spent the night at Lady Anne Lytton's. Returning with them from the EAO in my little Fiat which, that day, only went on 3rd gear so I didn't dare slow down and being chased out of the way by an armed escort with guns sticking out of the windows, who was following someone "Important", poor Don's head hitting the roof of the car when I hit a pothole and complaining in no uncertain terms! Sitting with him in the den of their home in Mena and giving me advice on the breakup of my marriage. There is another memory that flashes in my mind of him taking me antiquing to Branson, Missouri, where he wanted me to help him buy a present for Judi. Riding around in his pick-up truck with his adoring three-legged dog named Beau. And so many more...
With 41 years of friendship, there is so much to remember: his generosity, his kindness to children and his sense of humor. Don loved children. Whenever they came to Egypt and we would go "touristing" (Don's wording) he always had small monetary gifts for the bevy of poor kids who would surround us. My daughter who is now 25 still cherishes her hilarious Sweet Potato Sue doll that he got her years ago.
He adored Judi, was so proud and protective of her. He would wait patiently (and silently) for very long periods of time while she hemmed and hawed over innumerable silver trinkets to take back home as gifts for their friends.
He has been part of my life for a very long time and I will miss him very much.
"Keep it between the fence posts..." Jamie and Ray Roberts - Nirvana Farms, USA
This was the catch phrase Don always sent us off after a visit to Ansata. Every time as we got ready to leave Don would always smile, shake our hands and say "Keep it between the fence posts". He would always make the time to say goodbye, whether it was late at night or at the crack of dawn, Don was always there to see us off. Even if he knew he would not be around when we were leaving, he'd make sure to tell us to "keep it between the fence posts" before we left. We never realized how literally Don took this saying until riding into to town with him a few times. Whether he really was driving in the middle of the road to be better able to avoid the deer, as he claimed or if he was just keeping it between the fence posts; we always made good time going into Mena.
We never had the opportunity to fly with Don, but it seems that he would apply the same philosophy. This was proved out when Don and Judi rented a single engine plane and a couple of pilots to fly them up to our farm. Once we'd finished our visit we returned Don and Judi to the small airport for the return trip. As they got ready to go, there was a problem with the plane and the engine wouldn't start. Whether the young pilots were unsure of what the problem was or they were just deferring to Don's take charge way, Don opened up the engine cover and began to tinker around. In fairly short order they were able to get the engine going. Despite the apprehension we had about them getting into a single engine plane that just had difficultly starting, Don and Judi hopped in and took off. They made it home fine, although Judi did mention something about the plane nearly running out of gas on the way back. Such is the life of the adventurous as they keep it between the fence posts.
We will dearly miss Don and seeing the smile and hearing those words, but the spirit of keeping it between the fence posts will continue to guide us on our journey. Thanks Don.
"Sharing Don's company" by Claudia Quentin, Argentina
There are many, many moments that will remain in my memory of days spent in the company of Don, sitting in his TV room in his comfortable arm chair watching the news and commenting about international affairs, but perhaps the funniest souvenir I have of Don is this one:
One day Judi and Don were celebrating an important ANSATA anniversary. Paolo Gucci and I decided to dress up as Judi and Don! I went to Don's closet took a checkered shirt, one of the ones he always used to wear added a diet coke can, and gave both to Paolo. Paolo put the shirt on and to his great surprise it fit him well.
I put on one of Judi's turbans and took a copy of the Reference Handbook of Straight Egyptian Horses and off we went to the barn arena were Judi and Don were receiving their guests.
Paolo and I went straight to the podium, I took the microphone - wearing Judi's turban of course and welcomed everyone...saying "Don and I are very pleased that so many friends and guests from around the world are joining us here tonight... ANSATA is the place where everyone can find Straight Egyptian Arabians, the best blood lines in the world, horses with outstanding and consistent type and quality! and ...so easy to breed.
I looked at Paolo - and there he was standing, his diet coke (coca light) dangling from his right hand and to my great surprise he had even acquired the same pose as Don used to have when he was listening to Judi!
Everything was over in a few seconds. Judi could just not believe what she was seeing, said "God" and had a ball. Don's radiant face and his laughter are among the best souvenirs I have of him in those past happy years. Pictured below is Don with Ansata Iemhotep.
" Adventures 6 with Don" by Richard Sanders, USA
The year I showed Ansata Halim Shah at The Salon De Cheval in Paris, France really stands out in my memory. No one had made arrangements to get Halim Shah from the Paris Airport to the Racetrack across town where we would stay for the week prior to the show. I do not speak French which left me to draw pictures on napkins on the plane in order to communicate that we needed a ride! The Paparazzi met the plane, took photos and left. There was another horse on the plane, a mare, who was picked up in an open topped, two horse trailer that we were able to catch a ride with. The driver took us across town to the Race Track with me holding a plastic baseball bat in a two horse open topped trailer along with the mare and Halim Shah. He had done quite a lot of last minute breeding prior to leaving for this show so of course he had his eye on the mare! Needless to say he received a tap from me when he began to eye the mare too intensely. That plastic baseball bat was worn out by the time we got to the track.
Halim Shah and I enjoyed a quiet week in preparation for the show. David Boggs, Terry Holmes and Mizzan Taj Halim were there as well; keeping things American. Judy, Don and my wife Maggie arrived at the airport that was clear across town. My plan was to meet the plane then put Don and Judy and the MOUNTAINS of luggage in a cab while Maggie and I followed in the TINY five speed rental car back across town to the Hotel. We could not convince Don that the cab was a good idea ($). We all went with the luggage across Paris, France in the tiny little rental car. I drove with Judy balancing in the middle over the manual transmission between the front seats as Maggie sat in the passenger seat. Don proceeded to stuff himself into the back seat that was piled with suitcases as well as a trunk. This left all of 6 inches on top of the suitcases with two hours of rush hour traffic to the Hotel; well let's say the conversations were colorful. After pulling up to the hotel we pried Don from the ceiling of the back seat; I swear it took him an hour before he could stand up straight.
This happened during the first few hours of a trip across Europe to Balbona, Hungary by airplane, then renting a car to see the stud and hurry back to the airport. You get the picture, a very rushed excursion. When we were leaving Balbona and racing to the airport we were stopped for speeding. Don was going to pay the cop off, but there was a catch. There was a limit to the cash allowed into this Iron Curtain country. We all held our breath as Dr Nagel threw his coat over Don's roll of bills. Visions of being locked up in this communist country and no one seeing us again danced through my head!!!
"Buy land in Arkansas"
There was also the time in Mena when Don decided to show a couple from Luxemburg, Germany some prime real estate acreage. I was busy working horses when I got the call that he was stuck and to bring the "BIG" tractor. I finally found them on the prime piece of real estate acreage. Don and the couple from Luxemburg were sitting on the roof of his Black Cadillac; only you could not see the car itself. He had driven into a swamp and the car was up to the doors in mud. They all sat on the roof while I pulled them out; then off they went to see more farm land for sale. He thought that car could go anywhere! Now Cadillac even makes a truck!
"Flying with Don"
Another time we were in the Ansata airplane. It was a nice plane, a twin engine Cessna. Marty was the pilot, but it was Don's plane and it went where he wanted it to go. We were headed somewhere and there was a strong head wind which ate up more fuel than expected. Marty had calculated that we needed an unscheduled stop for fuel but Don was sure we would make it without more fuel. Well we didn't and we landed in a field; we had to have fuel delivered to this field. It was a long wait for that fuel truck.
"The Consummate Engineer"
Don had built a home made Hot Walker. It was BIG having been made from a semi truck transmission. He was proud that this walker could handle six stallions at one time. I remember thinking of an old adage "The bigger they are the harder they fall". One day we had it loaded up with six studs and the stallions began acting up. I rushed out to calm things and the whole walker crashed to the ground. I ended up at the hospital with one of the few horse related injuries I have ever experienced. The walker had broken my nose. It was a great walker and he had it back in service in no time and my nose is just fine.
My first year at Ansata, we had nearly 250 horses. Being a California kid, I was not prepared for "Ice Storms". We got caught short of grain when a winter ice storm moved in and you need a lot of grain to feed that many horses. Don and I set off for town on a Kubota tractor pulling a trailer. Eight hours later we made it back with the grain. We spent more time in the ditches than on the icy road but Don taught me how to get "ER" done.
Don was a bigger than life type man. He marched to his own drummer and I will miss him.
Meeting Don; how he contributed to our lives as Breeders
by Diana Cantey, USA.
My husband Duane and I were introduced to Don and Judi Forbis by our friends Nancy & Jerry Gates at the Egyptian Event in June 2001. Nancy and Jerry were showing their beautiful filly Shalima and they invited us to the Ansata barn party after the show. Don and Judi were very welcoming and we enjoyed chatting about horses with them. My husband found something in common with Judi not related to horses, their love of the movie "Patton"! He and Don chatted about football and other non-horsey topics while I spent time admiring many of the Ansata show horses in the stalls. We were later invited to visit Ansata Arabian Stud and embraced the invitation.
Plans were under way and we were to meet Nancy & Jerry at Ansata in August and plan to spend the weekend being introduced to all the beautiful horses and touring the farm. The long awaited weekend finally arrived and after enjoying the drive through the beautiful Ouachita Mountains, we made it to Ansata. There was a bulldozer repairing the road leading to the barns, and operating that machine was Don! I might add that he was doing a super job! He waved us on to the barns where we were greeted by their very friendly staff. Don joined us later when we were shown all the stallions, both those currently at stud and many outstanding, promising young colts. Judi showed us the mares and talked about family strains. We saw one filly that we really liked and quickly identified her as the only one on their current stock list that was K. Rhodania in her tail female line. Don mentioned that we must be developing a good eye for that strain since we already had a mare at home that we were quite pleased with and she was producing good foals for us when bred to the right stallion. The Ansata stock was just amazing and we received a first class education in seeing some of the finest Arabian horses in the world in person. We also enjoyed the llamas!
We enjoyed a delicious dinner that evening and met the two sweetest Chihuahuas. We had an opportunity to share some videos of our horses and to ask some specific questions about breeding and such. I appreciated Don and Judi's patience with newcomers as we had just begun our breeding program the year before and knew we had much to learn. During a discussion about a colt of ours, the issue of when to geld a colt came up. This was addressed by Don and made a big impression on me to this day.
I remember Don saying that you have to be patient with the "boys". If a colt had the right bloodlines and appeared promising, then he needed to be given some time to mature. He said you may have to wait awhile, maybe till he is 2 or 3 years old to know how he is going to turn out.
A few years later we had a colt born whose phenotype was not our ideal but he had good bloodlines and was "interesting". He had a lot of white on his face like his sire, long ears (at the time) and was built like a "tank". A breeder told us if he belonged to them he would be gelded. There was something about that colt that made me think about what Don said. By the time the colt was a year old yet he was really starting to evolve into quite a fancy boy. His ears didn't seem so long then and by 16 months of age he was really transforming into a beautiful young stallion. Our friend Lisa Brady came over to take a look at him and she was amazed it was the same horse! She had shown his full sisters to championships in Arkansas and regretted not having the opportunity to show him as he was sold to a breeder in Australia. This colt won two Supreme titles in Australia under well respected judges who shared that he was quite an impressive stallion. He is now a junior sire and producing foals that rival the quality of those that his world renowned sire is producing. One of his yearling daughters was recently named Jr. Champion filly at a show in New Zealand.
We appreciate the contributions of Ansata Arabian Stud and the advice that Don gave us that day. It contributed to how we make decisions as breeders and how important those decisions can be to the future of the breed.
My Most Memorable Moment with Don.... by Janice Bush, USA
There are lots of times that pop into my head when I recall my 'encounters' with Don.....I tend to remember the funny ones the best! However my most vivid memory was when Lee Romney and I traveled from Santa Ynez to see the new Ansata facility being built in Mena, AR. Well to be honest.....I wanted to see the farm but Lee was on a mission to buy a colt. I believe Don sensed that I was not in the "buying mood" and suggest that 'we let the gals visit' while he gave me a tour of the farm. It was raining....lots of water and mud.....farm roads were horrible.....Don was driving an old pick-up.....need I say more? We traveled around the farm (and I think into Oklahoma....!?) on some really muddy 'paths' sinking up to the hub caps.....he pointed out streams of rushing waters.....which I saw much too closely! I had visions of ending up an Arkansas/Oklahoma drowning statistic! All the while, Don was totally oblivious to my concerns about his driving skills...and the SPEED at which we were moving along! He just kept telling stories and describing future plans for the Ansata facility. I could hardly concentrate on anything but the road in front (mostly) of us!
Needless to say.....a colt had been purchased by the time we returned to the barn......and needless to say....I was so darn happy to get out of that truck that I really didn't object or offer an opinion! (A rare moment for those who know me!) But it gets better...Later that evening over dinner, Don suggested that instead of having us drive, he would fly us back to the airport in the morning to catch our plane back to California. Yikes!!! The visions that rushed thru my head! I am sure that every bit of 'Italian color' faded from my face! In fact, I probably turned green....(and it wasn't from the food....though...maybe...)??!! Judi must have sensed my 'concerns' because she whispered...."WE HAVE A PILOT"!!!!! (I sighed with relief at the sound of those words....)
That's the last time I rode with Don but I always enjoyed listening to his stories!
Don Forbis by Whit Byers, USA
I don't recall our first meeting, but it was about 30-32 years ago so probably at Bentwood Farm in Waco, Texas. My awe of the Forbises was immense to say the least.
What this man of men taught me was immense also. He understood young men and their dreams. His strengths were many but the one that will last for generations to come is his willingness to help, mentor, guide and provide discernment to others.
I was an "other". Very early on I dreamed and thought I needed a big truck to haul horses with. Don had previously purchased the old Bentwood tractor/trailer. At some point our conversations led to me proposing to buy the rig or Don noting he was selling it. He put a very generous (to my benefit) price on it, arranged for financing through his bank and the deal was done...right? Not exactly! As best I recall, I arrived to pick up the truck and trailer and before Don and I walked into the bank he said, "Wait a minute. You know, I have already depreciated that vehicle. Let me find out how much that was and we can deduct it from the purchase price." One phone call later and what I thought was a good deal actually became even better. This speaks to the inner Don that influenced many other people, too, but he didn't publicize it.
When Don and Judy moved to Arkansas my tenure at Bentwood was about if not already over. I remember my wife (at the time) and I being encouraged by Walter Schimanski and the Forbises to think about moving to Mena. I recall Don and Judi taking us (my wife was about 8 months pregnant) and our six year old son on a VERY rough ride over the property they had in Mena. I think the tour was in a rather old, beat up Blazer. We bounced, slid and struggled through a bunch of stuff that afternoon. Don's dream was coming to life. He saw things in that place that eventually became the imaginable. At the time they were his dreams.
In time, we did buy and begin to develop 80 acres outside of town. Our primary residence remained in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so weekend commutes were common. We spent many hours and meals with Don, Judi and Walter. Don was so willing to see us through our dreaming process that he would take lots of time to educate, help and lend to our "project". If he saw we needed a piece of equipment and he had it, it was provided for our use. He was always there. Our dreams were his. To me at that time of my life (I had also recently lost my father and the marriage was struggling), he was a kind, gentle mentor. Someone who was saying without saying it "It is ok....you are doing good".
I was telling Kathy a couple days ago that I remember Don as a gentleman. He was so polite, generous, wise and discerning. Although he felt strongly about many things, often he would briefly express his thoughts and then politely allow them time to simmer in our minds. He took time to share thoughts about business, pricing and the market place. Don was a sharing person....should we not all learn from that?
At the Egyptian Event last year during their 50-year anniversary celebration, Don was sitting near the stalls. As the festivities were winding down I was led to slip over to him for a few moments. Very unlike me, I began expressing my gratitude for him - telling him how much he had meant to me and inspired me through the years. That what he had taken the time to share with me was much of who I am today. Can I have anything but grateful feelings for this man? He teared up, smiled and said thanks. That said it all. Love you, Don......
"A Recent Memory" by Shawn Crews, Arabians Ltd. USA
I have many fond memories of Don. The most recent are of the Egyptian Event. Most of the time I spent with Don was chatting on the rail during classes. He was sitting in the Ansata seats ....I was in the ring. He would always give me a hard time. "Is that the same bay horse you led in the last class? " Type thing. Don was the kind of person you knew if he was giving you some grief he liked truly you. I would try to think of a come back but he got me good most of the time. We will all miss Don dearly!
By Joe Ferriss, USA
No doubt, the memories of Don Forbis are countless in his long life. To me he was sort of like a father figure but sometimes also a "buddy." There were times when I would drive down to Arkansas to work with Judi on producing the books she was writing. Judi and I would work long hours in the big barn office or her studio. Once in awhile Don would take me aside and say it's time to take a break. So off for the long drive to town we would go with a grocery list for Judi. Riding with Don was as adventurous as a stagecoach ride. I did not know he could careen that fast on the Arkansas back roads scattering gravel along the way. But somehow I felt safe in that big Cadillac with a seasoned pilot, surrounded by lots of steel. We would talk about clever ways on how to repair things and about one of my favorite subjects: old cars. He would get engrossed in the conversation with barrels of enthusiasm--so much so that when we returned back to the farm Judi would discover that Don forgot one of the most important items on the grocery list. But he would just shake his head and say in a frustrated voice "c'mon Joe we're going back to town right now!" So off we went for one single item. Then he told me about the rumor an old farmer told him that tucked away in the back woods of Ansata, way back off the trail that leads down to the stables were some rare old cars, rusting out in the wilderness. Not having ventured into that back area, he had wanted to go check it out but knowing how much I loved old cars, did not want to make the hike without me. He said it was rumored that there were Terraplanes, Studebakers and all kinds of rare cars. So one time we hiked way back into the woods and sure enough we encountered a small gravesite for a few old cars, mostly from the 1950s. We were both as excited as kids at Christmas. We discovered that some of the cars had been poached and stripped long ago. There were no Terraplanes but there were still some interesting carcasses, including a huge 1958 Oldsmobile. I told Don there is enough chrome on this vehicle that you could sell it off and pay the Ansata electric bill for a year! He got a laugh and then we decided to let all of it rest in peace and as far as I know no one has ever been back there again. But it was the joy of discovery that reminded me of the youthful side of Don that lingered all his years. Though our visits were seldom, each to me is a permanent jewel of memories.
"Riding in the car with Don" Jerry and Nancy Gates, USA
It was during one of our many visits to Ansata. Don decides to take us to the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. Well, if you ever been there you know it is a very curvy drive up to the mountain top. So, we take off in a large van they had at the time. It was Don driving, Judi, me and my husband Jerry and Steve Diamond sitting in the very back. Before I knew it I'm bracing myself in a straddle position with both legs trying to step on the floor like it was me driving trying to use the BRAKES! My left hand is tightly gripped around the support bar on the side of the van and my right hand is gripped around the arm on the captain's chair. I looked over at Jerry and his eyes where as big as saucers and he was holding his head side ways. I knew that was bad!!! Now, mind you that was only the first curve. By the time we went through the other curves I was speechless. Steve nudges me and asked if I'm O.K. I told him NO, I needed tranquilizers. We then started laughing and then Don hollered out are you kids O.K. Oh, yes I replied quickly not wanting to start any conversation to distract him from his driving. At this point I'm thinking how special if would be to die with Don and Judi Forbis and Steve Diamond. Not a bad way to go!!! Well, needless to say we had a wonderful lunch and just as exciting an adventure down the mountain as we did going up the mountain.
Love You Don
By Jim Panek, USA
Don was a kind and gentle man who made everyone he touched feel very welcome and very special. His devotion, support and respect for Judi were always evident; he did not hesitate to express that. Whenever I visited with Don and Judi, a tour of Ansata was always Don's way of showing his pleasure for you being there. He was so proud of the way he designed and constructed the house, the barns, the fencing, how everything was organized for the well-being of the horses. He was especially proud of the way they blended into the ambience of Ansata and the surrounding landscape. The last time we spent time together (even though many of the Ansata horses were sadly gone) Don still made the effort to give the usual guided tour and to introduce me to "the lake house" where he and Judi planned to relocate. Don's business acumen, coupled with his intelligence, professional background, and his wealth of professional experience were rarely mentioned--he just wanted to make one feel good about visiting. You left knowing you be welcomed back again. Don's presence in a variety of circles will be long remembered, and missed by each of us.
By Margo Smith Shallcross, USA
My mind goes back to 1979 in Reno, NV at the Arabian Horse Fair-I had been showing Cass Ole', "The Black Stallion", at Liberty that year and we were invited to show at the Fair. They had several rings set up to honor the important stallions of that era. I was invited to present in the ring with Cass and Don came in with Ansata Ibn Halima. What a great moment in my life-I was in the ring with THREE very famous gentlemen; Don, Ansata Ibn Halima and Cass--can life get any better. As I stood Cass up and Don presented Ansata we let them get nose to nose-it was a thrill and I tried to watch Don so I would do as well as he did in presenting my Arabian stallion. So many wonderful memories of the giants, like Don Forbis, that have been instrumental in opening the world of the Arabian horse to millions of people.
By Sheila Theriot, USA
First memory: My first day on the job, I told Mr. Forbis I hoped to own a horse or two of my own some day. His reply was simple & profound. "You don't own horses, they own you". Will never forget that & I'm living that reality, with two horses that have owned us for the past five years.
Daily interaction: Mr. Forbis handing over receipts to send to the accountant & trying to pass off diabetic testing strips as ranch supplies :)
Lasting memory: Mr. Forbis' kind, soft heart. He was a true gentleman.
Blessings: Avoiding car rides with Mr. Forbis behind the wheel!