by Anya McCann
“Recovery is: something to do, something to care about, something to hope for.”
“June Forbes was a fierce advocate for people with serious mental illness. She never let anyone off the hook when she was in pursuit of improvements to the mental health system of care in Yolo County, and in California,” according to Former Supervisor and Assemblywoman Helen Thomson and Cap Thomson. “She studied, researched, and attended conferences to educate herself and then brought that new knowledge back to Yolo County. She was generous with her time, energy, and compassion and relentless in her expectation that government needed to do better by those who needed services! She was the spark plug of NAMI Yolo and will be greatly missed by those who worked with her and by those who benefited from her work.”
Many in the community were surprised and deeply saddened to learn that June Forbes died January 8, 2019 from a stroke at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. June was 77 and was a resident of Davis CA for the past 31 years. She was born June 1, 1941 in Oakland, CA to her mother, Evelyn Dice Forbes and father, John Perry Forbes.
She is survived by her husband, Bill Schuldt, her school sweetheart, the love of her life, and partner in everything; her treasured son, Michael Dean Minix; sisters Joanna Louise Roberts and Elise Forbes-Seeley; and brother, John David Forbes.
A tour de force in mental health activism, she was a dedicated, passionate advocate. Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry said “June Forbes’ death is not just a tragic blow to her family and friends but to all of Yolo County. June spent decades in our community working on behalf of those suffering with mental illness, from ensuring access to treatment to fighting against stigma and prejudice.”
Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza concurred, “June Forbes was a leader in the true sense of the word. June set an example for others by her selfless commitment to the cause, long hours of volunteer work, and by her tenacity in fighting for the rights of the mentally ill.”
June’s advocacy began over 35 years ago, when her son, Michael, found sanctuary living at the Pine Tree Gardens, a residential supportive services home for adults living with serious mental illness in Davis. She joined the local chapter of Mental Health America, which evolved into National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Yolo County. Thus began her mission to improve lives and her dedication to the NAMI Yolo chapter, ushering in its stigma-shattering nationwide programming for local residents and their loved ones, offered at no cost to participants.
June earned an MBA in Management from Golden Gate University in 1978 and a BA in History from California State East Bay in 1972. She had a thriving career serving in a variety of finance roles including: Treasurer of Bank of America’s Investment Management Corp; Financial Analyst for Wells Fargo Trust Department; Audit Preparation for Alameda Housing Authority; Finance Director for Sacramento Job Corps; and Finance Director for Elderly Nutrition Program (Yolo County Meals on Wheels). She also provided accounting services for Kaiser Engineers and other construction industry firms. These skills prepared her well for her community leadership positions including nearly every NAMI Yolo board role.
She doggedly sought and trained volunteers for a helpline she launched and for programming that served all ages and connected peers, parents, families, UC Davis students, and professionals with education and support. There was a special place in her heart for Pine Tree Gardens, including strong support for facility upgrades, and for Homestead Independent Living Coop in Davis where she led annual Thanksgiving and Christmas parties coordinating gift stockings for residents, art projects, community excursions, and exercise (including hip hop), as part of the CAN-Do program open to all. She kept the program going through hospitalizations, wheelchair time and health recovery challenges. Cooking the Christmas ham dinner was her last contribution before passing. “June was like a classy Mrs. Claus, kind and grandmotherly, she lit up the room like a Christmas tree as she entered,” remembers Cass Sylvia, Retired Yolo County Public Guardian/Conservator. “Then she articulately got down to business and got her way.”
June co-facilitated a Family Support Group meeting just weeks before she passed. Her work on outreach to the community in recent years included expanding a program called In Our Own Voice, which dispels myths and misunderstanding about mental illness by featuring the stories of people who live in recovery from serious mental illness; facilitating NAMI Yolo presentations at Crisis Intervention Team Training for law enforcement and first responders, and launching the Ending the Silence program to provide information about mental illness and recovery to high school students and educators. She organized stigma-fighting annual community events like Mental Illness Awareness Week activities, the Interfaith Service of Prayer for Understanding & Recovery and Rally to Shine a Light on Recovery.
June was appointed over a decade ago by the County Board of Supervisors to the Local Mental Health Board, which oversees and advises on Yolo County public mental health and substance abuse needs and services. June advocated for local housing options, economic opportunities, expansion of programs like Mental Health Courts, and increased access to treatment and support. She worked with partners at NAMI California to advocate for state level spending and policy programs that advance best practice treatments and research, and to decriminalize mental illness.
Provenza said “As chair and as a member of this mental health board, she was instrumental in moving the county to improve treatment for the mentally ill by our criminal justice system and provide better services for those suffering a crisis or needing urgent assistance. June was a shining light in our community. I am honored to have been her friend. We will miss her.”
Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor, District 2, agreed and added “She was equally at home making sandwiches for a gathering, testifying at a government meeting, talking with mental health consumers, organizing a walk or a ceremony, or deciding on paint colors for a residential facility. June made a positive difference in the lives of the people of Yolo County. I will miss the twinkle in her eye when good things were happening and the spark in her voice when she thought we could do better.”
James Glica-Hernandez, Chairman of Yolo County Local Mental Health Board observed “Most people saw June as an advocate for mental health, but when you looked at her work and the intention behind her work, it was more like a mother lion protecting her cubs. It was like she was compelled to make a difference in their lives, it is what made her so compelling to so many. She was a vital force on our board.”
As one of the board members who rotated various positions for NAMI Yolo, in addition to organizing programming, June advocated for government and funding support, including execution of the annual Pat Williams Mental Health Dinner Fundraiser. Davis City Councilmember Lucas Frerichs noted “June Forbes was one of the most persistent advocates I’ve ever worked with; she tirelessly pursued and fought for adequate funding resources and programs for those folks in our community who needed a champion.”
In 2017, June’s dream of securing three years of funding through the Transition Aged Youth Speakers Bureau & Peer and Family Led Support Services grant from the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency became a reality. NAMI Yolo opened an office in Woodland and hired its first staff.
June’s survivors ask that the community continue her stewardship and contribute to the vision she fought so hard to achieve. They hope that community members will step up, take the mantle, and continue her efforts to make NAMI Yolo grow stronger and thrive! Support June’s legacy, her vision for a future where all people experiencing mental illness have access to effective treatments, safe housing, meaningful work and supportive relationships by visiting www.namiyolo.org where donations to the June Forbes Memorial Fund for Understanding and Recovery from Mental Illness will fund the programs she held dear, offered at no cost to participants.
A memorial service will be held at The Episcopal Church of St. Martin, 640 Hawthorn Lane, Davis, CA 95616, on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 3:00 p.m., with a reception to follow. Reverend Dr. Pamela Dolan will officiate. June’s remains, along with generations of the Forbes Family, reside at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, CA. In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes can be made at www.namiyolo.org or mailed to P.O. Box 447, Davis, CA 95617.