James Markus “Mark” Forbes, whose family operated the corner drug store for generations in Houston, Missouri, died Sunday night, April 14, 2013, following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Born October 12, 1956, Mark Forbes was bigger than life from the day he drew his first breath.
At age 5, with a missing front tooth, sporting a broad smile and wearing a spotted leopard Halloween costume, Forbes graced the front page of the November 2, 1961, Houston Herald. Years later, he was operating the iconic drug store in downtown Houston and holding court at the soda fountain that is part of the town’s culture.
A 1975 graduate of Houston High School, he was closely associated with athletics and his love for football — whether it be the red and black of Houston High School or the black and gold of the Missouri Tigers — and you could expect to see him cheering on his favorite teams.
Passion was one thing Mark Forbes never lacked. Proud of his Scottish bloodline, you might find him wearing a kilt and eye patch. A rugby fan, he was known to take to the field himself. A friend related he didn’t know how many times he played, but he remembered how many times he required stitches.
Over the years, he coached Mighty Mite football, organized an alumni event named the “Geezer Bowl” that raised money for the football program and supported the football program as leader of the Big Red Quarterback Club.
Where there was fun, you’d find Mark Forbes. In 2004, he arranged for a helicopter to drop a stuffed dummy decked out in a Cameron football uniform before the Tigers took on the team in the state semi-final game at Tiger Stadium. The occasion was a downtown pep rally at Lone Star Plaza, property that the Forbes family donated for its creation.
Mark was the fifth generation of his family to become a pharmacist after receiving his degree from St. Louis University College of Pharmacy. He was a Phi Delta Chi member; friends called him “Tiny.”
Mark’s impact on Houston was anything but tiny. In 2007, the chamber recognized the business as Houston’s longest operating business front. It was established in 1866 and known as Blankenship Drug.
In 1992, he led Houston Area Chamber of Commerce as its president. Later, he was recognized with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Since returning to his hometown, he contributed much to the community. For years, he was the drive behind the Emmett Kelly Clown Festival. It was the perfect event for him. In typical fashion, he dressed the part in downtown Houston as “Marko” and was eventually featured in a PBS program that highlighted the Midwest festival.
And Houston celebrated with him many times. In 2009, he was the grand marshal of the homecoming parade, wearing his slightly snug HHS letter jacket and in a muscle car he had built that he called “The Beast.”
Three years earlier, he was celebrating his 50th birthday in a typical Forbes drug store promotion with discounts on everything from walkers and canes to pain-related medication in the store that he helped transform from pharmacy to Houston’s retail hub where you could get a meal at the fountain and pick up a gift on your way out of the door.
As chamber president (typical of his promotion style) he promised that he’d have barber Chester Herndon clip him bald if 800 advance tickets were sold to a county fair concert. For a Hospice of Care fundraiser he was crowned “King of the Luau.”
He was a longtime trustee on the Texas County Memorial Hospital board; his term expired earlier this month. He was also a booster of Houston Schools. His annual thank you for his generosity was siren-blaring red fire trucks loaded with first graders pausing at the corner drug store to express their gratitude.
Mark had other passions outside his service to the community. He was an avid reader, especially of history and the Civil War; he loved a good movie and was a friend to all that engaged him in conversation. He loved his dogs, Beau and Laddie.
He was preceded in death by his father, James Clay Forbes.
Mark is survived by his mother, Leta Marie Smith Forbes; his wife, Jodiene Marie Griffin Woosley-Forbes; her sons, Oliver Lawton Woosley and Ahren Rae Laverne Woosley; daughter, Olivia Marie Woosley, who brought Mark much happiness and was the light of his life; and grandson, Cason Elijah Woosley, play mate extraordinaire.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and community.
Services under the direction of Evans Funeral Home were Saturday, April 20, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Houston, where he was a member, with Dr. Howell Burkhead officiating. Pallbearers were Chip Smith, Scott Smith, Jim Cunningham, Tim Smith, Steve Dawson, David Cunningham, Paul Smith and Donald Cook. Honorary pallbearers were David Warren, Bryan Millman, Dr. Peter Young, Mark Sponsler, Mike “Big O” Owens, Brad “Brownie” Brown, Kirby Rust, Joe Slayton, Frank Rowles, Don “Duck” Willson, Randy Cunningham and Dr. Ken “Ratty” Downing. Burial followed in Pine Lawn Cemetery.
The family respectfully requests memorials be made to the Houston Schools football department, music department, middle school/high school library or cancer research. Online condolences may be made at www.evansfh.com.