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Herbert Arthur Forder, 87, Montgomery School Teacher, Principal, and FBI Agent

Also Montgomery Township’s First Recreation Director

1933 - 2020

Herbert Arthur Forder, 87, died November 20 from injuries sustained in a November 13 traffic accident on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, his adopted home.

Herb had been a long-time resident of Montgomery Township, where he was a teacher who rose through the ranks to become a beloved elementary school principal, as the school system grew in both size and quality from two-room schoolhouses to national prominence. He also served as the township’s first recreation director, and he was active in Boy Scout leadership and the Rotary Club.

Herb was kind, gentle, giving, open-minded, fair, funny, smart, curious about the world and other people, and unfailingly decent and honest. He was the best husband, father, grandfather, and friend imaginable, and if you ever met someone he had met, you were meeting one of his friends eager to extoll his virtues. Throughout his life, Herb was also a gifted woodworker, landscaper, and mechanic, who built, planted, repaired, and maintained with enthusiasm, concentration, generosity, and an unerring eye for detail.

He was born and raised in Bound Brook. A part-time job at a gas station in high school fostered a life-long love affair with buying, fixing, and reselling (usually for profit) an endless succession of cars. Herb could lube, detail, and do timing, points, and plugs with the best of them.

He was an early adopter of VW Bugs and vans, Corvair convertibles, and 1950s Volvos. As a young man, he owned a succession of racy ‘30s and ‘40s coupes. When he wasn’t painting pictures or woodshedding on his accordion, he commuted to high school and the gas station in his cowboy boots on a modified Cushman Airborne Scooter.

Example of a Cushman Airborne Scooter

Throughout these early years, Herb had loving parents and a devoted friend in his (late) older brother, and also kept good company with Oscar, his dachshund; Pat his mutt; and Blackie, his pet white rooster, who often rode on his bicycle handlebars.

Herb was drafted during the Korean War while on leave from college for surgery. As a tall man, he was selected to be a military policeman, and spent his service years collecting engaging stories as he rode the trains between Boston and New York, making sure civilian passengers were safe from boisterous military revelers.

After his service, Herb married, Shirley, who was originally from Manville. He was enthusiastically welcomed to her large and loving family, as she earned her RN/BSN and he earned his undergraduate degree in education from Rutgers College and took flying lessons, stopping just short of getting licensed. Children were looming.

As an elementary school art teacher in New Jersey, Herb took the test to become an FBI agent on a whim at the behest of a friend. He aced the test and decided to accept the FBI’s offer. His star rose quickly, and he was selected for foreign counter-intelligence work and language training. After a year’s training, he was speaking fluent Romanian and served for years as a cold warrior (a person who participated in the Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.) in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Tired of the frequent moves and long hours required by the FBI, and missing time with his young children, he left the FBI and settled near both families in Montgomery Township, where he returned to education as a teacher. Going to school at night, he earned a master’s degree in education at Rutgers College.

Along this journey, simply buying homes for his family was not the Herb way. He designed and built several family homes from scratch, serving as the general contractor and lending a hand with everything from masonry to finish carpentry and landscaping. In later years, there was always a space in these houses for his Lowery Organ, on which he filled the night with big band standards as his children drifted off to sleep, instilling in them a lifelong love of good music.

After retiring from education and working as a Realtor in New Jersey, Herb and Shirley relocated to Hilton Head to chase golf balls, make new friends, and enjoy the lack of snow, interrupted only by foreign travel, family visits, giving the best advice to his children and grandchildren, and the restoration of his blue El Camino. He knew how everything worked, and throughout his life remained an invaluable and generous source of inspiration and counsel to friends and family alike.

He is survived by his wife and best friend of more than 65 years, Shirley Anne Forder; his two sons; five grandchildren; and a large extended family.

In lieu of flowers, please donate in his name to Habitat for Humanity. Services will be announced when science deems them safe.


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