J. Douglas Forrest, a retired mailroom superintendent for The Baltimore Sun and former state commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars, died from complications of dementia Sunday at Brightwood Nursing Center in Lutherville. The Idlewylde resident was 86.
Mr. Forrest was born in Baltimore and raised on Brighton Street. He began his career in the newspaper mailroom in 1937, a year before he graduated from Calvert Hall College High School. He became a sales supervisor in the circulation department until he was drafted into the Army in 1941.
After attending intelligence school and being commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was assigned to the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard in 1942.
He served as a combat infantry officer with the division in Hawaii and Guadalcanal, and participated in the Luzon and Philippines campaigns. His combat days ended after he was hospitalized for six months for malnutrition and malaria.
He returned to the Sunpapers' circulation department as an assistant manager and then manager for out-of-town promotion. In 1950, he moved to the mailroom as an executive trainee, and the next year was named mailroom superintendent, a position he held for 34 years until he retired in 1985.
Mr. Forrest was described in a 1976 article in Between Editions, a company employee newsletter, as being "stocky, genial and good-natured," and responsible for the 55 mailers who worked "under his wing night and day."
"One of the things about Doug was that he was running the mailroom at a time when pre-prints were exploding, and zoned suburban sections," recently retired Sun general manager John F. Patinella said of the operation, which included packaging and bundling newspapers for delivery. "This was during the 1970s and 1980s, and he designed the systems that handled this work."
Mr. Patinella added, "He was a very kind man who took the time to train people. He trained me in mailroom operations."
Mr. Forrest became active with the VFW after World War II. He was a lifetime member of its William D. Byron Post 1936 in Hagerstown, and a member of Charles Evering Post 6506 in Rosedale.
He served in all elected offices at the post, district and department levels, and was state commander from 1976 to 1977. He was a past commander of the Joint Veterans Commission of Maryland and had been secretary-treasurer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee.
In 1992, Mr. Forrest was honored with a citation from then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer for holding "A Day of Remembrance" for Calvert Hall alumni who lost their lives in the nation's wars. He received the VFW's Distinguished Service Medal in 1996 for his long-standing advocacy of service on behalf of the nation's veterans.
"There was never any doubt about Doug's love of the VFW. There wasn't a VFW post he wouldn't visit, whether it was in some remote corner of the Eastern Shore or far off Western Maryland," said Thomas C. Rye, former quartermaster at the Rosedale post. "He got along with everybody, and when you find someone like Doug who really enjoys an organization as he did, it really comes across."
Mr. Forrest was also active in alumni affairs at Calvert Hall, where he edited and published the quarterly newsletter for his class. He was a former member of the board of the alumni association and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2001.
He was a member and served as the first treasurer of the Baltimore Sun Retirees Association, and enjoyed woodworking and building clocks.
"His real hobbies were the VFW and Calvert Hall," said his wife of 12 years, the former Lisa Melville.
His wife of 15 years, the former Mildred "Millie" Goldberg, died in 1990. A marriage to Elizabeth Lauder ended in divorce.
Mr. Forrest was a communicant of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge. Plans for a memorial Mass there were incomplete yesterday.
Survivors also include a son, Robert E. Forrest of Marriottsville; a stepdaughter, Jennifer L. Knowles of Joppa; and two nieces.