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Meet Forrest

With more than 16 million Americans serving in the armed forces during World War Two, many stories exist of the heroic efforts of soldiers and sailors, marines and pilots who bravely put themselves in harm’s way to help further the cause of freedom. And with those stories come tales of service and sacrifice that you don’t often hear – of specialized united and covert missions. Forrest’s story is one of those, and his work serving in the Army Air Force helped ensure an allied victory in the second war to end all wars.

Born in Detroit in the fall of 1919, Forrest, a resident of Oakmont Livonia, spent his early childhood just blocks from where he lives now. In the early 1920s, his father purchased an acre of land in a subdividing community known as Livonia and built a house for his young family. It was here Forrest and his parents would live until a job transfer took them down south to the Magnolia State.

“I was around 16 or 17, a junior in high school, when my dad got transferred from here to Jackson, Mississippi,” Forrest said. I graduated high school in 1938 and then went to Mississippi State College for two-and-a-half years until the war came along. In 1941 in November, just before Pearl Harbor, I enlisted in the Army Air Force – the Army and Air Force were together at that time.”

Eyes on the Skies

After enlisted, Forrest was sent to Weather Observer School, where he and the men and his unit learned to read the skies. This work took him all over the country, from Texas to Illinois, eventually landing him back in Grand Rapids for a short time before heading down south to the Caribbean, and eventually, Natal, Brazil.

While the job of observing and predicting the weather is now commonplace on nightly newscasts, in the 1940s, it was a progressive and evolving science – and one that the Army was determined to master. Forrest and the men of the 4th Weather were charged with forecasting the weather across the Atlantic Ocean and over to North Africa – a major front in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theater of the war.
Armed with this essential information, the Army Airforce was able to safely schedule and fly bombers down from America to a base in Natal, and eventually across the ocean to land in Africa – a task paramount to stopping the allied powers and winning the war. “A lot of people don’t know that’s how they got the bombers over there,” said Forrest. “Most people have never even thought of it.”

“I Know Them, and They Know Me.”

After serving in the Army more than four years, Forrest left in January of 1946, and ended up back Livonia working for Evans Products in Material Control – but his heart was still in the skies. “I made one great big mistake after [the war] and didn’t stay with the weather,” he said, chuckling. “Everyone, I guess, makes one great big mistake in their life, and that was mine.”

Soon after returning to Livonia, Forrest married his wife of many years, Margaret, and along with his own two children, raised two stepchildren as his own. “She had two children and I raised them as mine,” he said, slightly choking up. “And they still call me ‘Dad.’ And I know them, and they know me.” And just like Dad, his children, Heather and Forrest, haven’t ventured too far either, living close by in Garden City and Livonia.

Though he’ll soon turn 98, Forrest is still passionate about making others smile, telling a joke, and his favorite sport: golf. If you walk into Oakmont Livonia and see a group of seniors laughing and smiling, chances are, Forrest is the reason why.

Meet Betty


It’s no surprise that when asked what she’d like to talk about in her resident spotlight interview, Betty replied that she’d like to talk about her religion. “I think it’s the most interesting things about me,” she said, smiling, “and I can talk about it, it’s not weird.”

Born in Philadelphia to a loving mother and father and three sisters, Betty was brought up in the Church of Christian Science – an American-born religion that sports about 85,000 members worldwide. Her early memories involve sitting with her mother and reading Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy’s famous book: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, along with passages from the bible.

“Both my sister and I stammered when we were younger,” she said, “so reading from the bible was good practice for me because there were quite a few tongue twisters in there,” she said, laughing. “And I liked it [Christian Science] until I became an adolescent and started to question things.”

Despite growing up in the depression, moving from apartment to apartment, and dealing with nagging questions about her faith, Betty was an exceptionally happy child – seeing each move as a new adventure. “I was always happy,” she said, speaking of when the Great Depression impacted her family. “I wasn’t aware that suddenly we were poor and had nothing – and you don’t know about depression until you know nothing – we had nothing.”

From Nothing to Everything

Despite hard economic times, Betty wasn’t about to let outside circumstances determine her fate. She enrolled at Wayne State University, eventually earning a Bachelor’s Degree as well as a Master’s Degree in Library Science and a Master’s Degree in Geography. Inspired by her love for learning, she began teaching at Oakland Community College – lecturing about her favorite subjects to many interested students.

It was during this period that she met the man she’d eventually marry – and stay married to for 23 years. He was a fallen-away Catholic, and immersing herself in his religion re-invigorated her quest to finally feel comfortable in her own. It was then that she seriously began to consider leaving the church of her youth and converting.

“I had a perfect life,” she said smiling. “Two children – a boy and a girl. I loved my husband. We had a nice house and we were happy. We had a little doggie and everything.”


Finally a Catholic After 83 Years

After the death of her first husband and divorce from her second (a colleague who was also a Catholic), Betty realized it was now or never to fulfill her dream of converting. Neither of her spouses was particularly fond of their religion, which kept her from officially making the plunge all of those years. “With both husbands gone, I thought, I could do it now,” she said. And after talking to a priest, she officially converted at the age of 83 – and now gets to live a faith that inspires her every day.

“It’s so real,” she said when asked what about Catholicism moves her. “I mean, what lasts 2,000 years? Not much. But the bible – best seller all these years. It’s fascinating. It’s more real. You can talk about it.”

And talk about it she does. Her life has come full circle now, from reading the writings of Mary Baker Eddy with her mother to scripture readings at the Oakmont Northville chapel – the words of faith continue to not only move Betty but pique her intellectual curiosity on a daily basis.

“You know, they often say about converts that they’re more interested, more moved by things because it’s new and it’s splendid,” she said. “I love ritual when it’s beautiful. I love it. I just love it.”

Listen to Betty describe why Catholicism moves her in her own words: