'A loss for the community'

Dunes City, Florence lower flags to honor passing of Mayor Robert Forsythe

Feb. 12, 2022 — On Tuesday, the City of Dunes City announced the passing of Mayor Robert Forsythe on Feb. 7. Immediately, people began to speak about Forsythe’s impact on their organization and the greater community.

Both Dunes City and the City of Florence announced that flags would be flown at half mast in honor of Forsythe. In Dunes City, this will continue through the end of February. Florence will lower flags through Wednesday, Feb. 16, at noon.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Cindy and their family,” said Dunes City Administrator Jamie Mills. “We are thankful for the outpouring of support that our city has received since Mayor Forsythe’s passing. We are in contact with his family and will make sure we pass on the condolences.” 

Forsythe had recently been taken off life support after COVID-related pneumonia and other complications.

Mills worked with Dunes City Council President Sheldon Meyer on the official announcement. In it, Meyer announced that he has assumed the duties of mayor until the Dunes City Council takes action, per the City Charter of Dunes City.

“To honor the family, the city will continue functioning in the manner that Mayor Forsythe would have wanted,” Meyer said. “I am ready to assume the mayoral duties to make sure his legacy continues.”

And it was quite a legacy. 

Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andrew Grzeskowiak called Forsythe’s passing “a

loss for the community” in a post marking the announcement. 

Forsythe had been a school district volunteer and an assistant coach of the Siuslaw High School wrestling team.

Siuslaw High School Principal Michael Harklerode wrote a letter informing families of Forsythe’s impact on the school, and shared words from Wrestling Coach Neil Wartnik.

“It is impossible for me to express the depth of our pain and grief,” Wartnik said. “He was more than a volunteer coach. He was a grandfather and guardian angel to the wrestling program. His presence elevated everyone.”

The wrestling team met the morning of Feb. 8 as a group to share the news.

“Several themes emerged,” Wartnik continued. “Coach Forsythe had the ability to comfort us as we endured pain, grief and disappointment; the ability to counsel us when we had difficult decisions to make; and the ability to make us feel better about life and about ourselves, no matter the circumstances. Few people exercise that kind of power. He was a model of dignity, wisdom and grace. He was an anchor, helping us become better people and a better team. He loved us, and we loved him.” 

The school district also set up a care room for students to access school counselors and have a quiet place to reflect. Several students utilized the room, which remained open as needed.

“We will hurt as we get used to life without him, but we will be better people and live better lives thanks to his impact on us,” Wartnik said.

Again, that legacy will continue, thanks to the Bob and Cindy Forsythe Wrestling Scholarship, which gave its first award to SHS graduate Elijah LaCosse in June 2021.

Grzeskowiak concluded his letter by saying, “Please take a moment to remember those who have made an impact on the lives of the youth in our community through coaching, volunteering and civic leadership.”

The City of Florence also wrote a letter expressing condolences to the City of Dunes City, the community and Forsythe’s family.

Florence Mayor Joe Henry stated, “As mayor, and on behalf of the City of Florence and the Florence City Council, I am extending our sincere condolences to Cindy and the family of Bob Forsythe, as well as to the City of Dunes City. Bob has been a leader not only of the City of Dunes City but also in the greater Florence area in many official and volunteer positions; his leadership and contribution to our community sill be sorely missed. As a longtime friend of both Bob and Cindy, Pam and I are heartbroken over your loss and want to assure that if there is anything we can do to help in either capacity, we will be happy to do so. Bob, you, and your family are in our prayers.”

Forsythe became mayor of Dunes City on Aug. 25, 2017, after the death of Mayor Rebecca Ruede.

Forsythe, a Vietnam veteran, spent 43 years in manufacturing with a focus on Procurement and Equipment Management. He moved to Florence in 2009 after retiring and served on several committees and organizations, including being the chair of the Environmental Management Advisory Committee and the Florence Budget Committee. His local work included serving on the boards of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County, Shelter Cove Homeowners Association and Lane Council of Governments. 

He also served as Port of Siuslaw port manager from 2012 to 2015.

In June 2015, the Forsythes moved to Dunes City, where they built a home near Darlings Marina and RV Resort.

In 2016, Forsythe ran for the Dunes City Council as a write-in candidate.

At the time, he said it was by Ruede’s invitation.

“I was honored to do so,” Forsythe said. “I tend to get involved everywhere I live, whether it be a homeowner association or city, mainly because I found that if other people decide what is good for me, I want to at least have a voice in it.”

Forsythe was elected to continue serving as mayor in both 2018 and 2020.

In his time with the Dunes City Council, Forsythe and the council worked to solidify the role of the city in the community, advocated for local rights, secured a stronger partnership with Lane County Sheriff’s Office, expanded citizen engagement and helped address the community’s needs during the pandemic.

“We thank Mayor Forsythe for his over five years of service to the citizens of Dunes City,” Mills said.

The next meeting of the Dunes City Council, scheduled for Feb. 16, has been cancelled. For more information, visit dunescityhall.com.