Forrest Smith, 71, died peacefully at Barberton Hospital on October 8, 2022 after an extended illness. Born and raised in Barberton, Forrest was constantly meeting people and creating enduring friendships. A first-generation college graduate, Forrest earned an undergraduate degree in Biology from Hiram College and a Master’s degree in Biology from Purdue University. While at Hiram, he enjoyed living, learning, and working at the Hiram College Biological Station. At Purdue, he delighted in doing research with wolves and becoming a member of their pack. He later earned a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Kent State University and had leadership roles in the Community College Anthropology Association.
Forrest taught for 30 years as a full-time faculty member at The University of Akron Wayne College in Orrville, where he earned tenure, met his wife, Monica, and taught thousands of students over the years. His classes spanned a variety of topics including biology, anthropology, environmental studies, World Civilizations: Africa, and karate. While at Wayne, Forrest helped create a nature trail, advised Phi Theta Kappa and many other student activities, directed and acted in multiple plays, coached the women’s basketball team for a season, developed the Environmental Studies program, and led numerous international trips. He also served as a mentor for the McNair Scholars program. Forrest’s efforts were geared towards getting students—many of whom were also first-generation—to become involved in courses, field trips, student government, and honorary societies. While advising Phi Theta Kappa, he organized service activities for Native American groups and the Orrville Head Start. He was honored with the Wayne Service Award three times.
After retirement from full-time teaching, Forrest continued to teach as an adjunct faculty member at Wayne College, the University of Akron’s Medina County campus, and at Hiram’s weekend college. During summers, he led teacher-training workshops focused on plants and wetlands.
In addition to his work in education, Forrest wrote a newspaper column (“The Plant Professor”), was a radio co-host (“At Home with Ezra and Forrest Smith, the Plant Professor”), and appeared in a PBS television show. Forrest was hardworking and labored with his father and brother to remodel a barn into a home where he lived for over 45 years. He ran several small businesses focused on landscaping and environmental consulting, which allowed him to work with garden centers, county government, the Akron Zoo, and the Ohio Department of Transportation. Active in the community, he was twice appointed to fill vacancies on the Clinton Village Council, both times declining to run for a full-term. Later he served on the Clinton Village Planning Commission and the Clinton Canal Corridor Committee.
Forrest was a trained observer and could identify almost any plant you showed him and believed that biology happens in special places. Gardening and plant shopping were favorite activities. He enjoyed bird watching and was never without a pair of binoculars in the car. He was an avid reader, enjoyed writing, and earned a black belt in karate. He had a tradition of watching the Browns games with his father and children while eating Barberton Chicken, grading student papers, and yelling at the TV. He was disappointed in this season’s quarterback selection. Forrest loved going fishing and seeing movies with friends and family. He cooked gourmet food from around the world for family on a nightly basis, as well as holding regular themed meals with friends. He helped organize and plan school reunions and was always eager to reconnect with old friends. Travel was Forrest’s passion, and his favorite places included the Lake District in England, Cook Forest, PA, and Chincoteague Island, VA. His travels also took him to Kenya and Tanzania and fossil hunting in the Olduvai Gorge, Iceland, Morocco, and throughout the UK. He was proud to have been a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Forrest was the perfect husband and the best father ever who always told his children how proud he was of them. He enjoyed being a scout leader, coaching sports, serving as a reader for Academic Challenge, working with Destination Imagination, leading guest lectures in school on dinosaurs, and cooking meals for teacher appreciation nights and away soccer games.
Preceded in death by his parents Forrest E. and Anna and brothers Jerry and Larry, Forrest is survived by his loving wife of 35 years, Monica, his three children, Jacob, Joey and Heidi, and countless friends from all over the world. He had a profound impact on students, colleagues, and friends, and he will be missed dearly.
The family would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Haas and all the staff at Parkview, as well as other medical providers with whom he formed friendships over the last three years.
Following Forrest’s wishes, there will be no formal funeral services, but a Celebration of Life will be held in the future.