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A sense of community ranks high in importance to Oklahoma volunteer

Doug Forsyth

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Doug Forsyth Photo Provided -

— A sense of community ranks high in importance to Doug Forsyth.

Growing up in Brandt, S.D., a close-knit community of only 140 people, fostered his life-long spirit of volunteerism.

But regardless of the origin, Forsyth, 66, is not content to just live in a community, but to give back to it.

“We are all one community and we have all been given individual talents. We should use our talents to make our community stronger and a better place to live,” Forsyth said.

He retired in 2012 as chief of the National Severe Storms Laboratory’s radar research and development division in Norman, but continues to use his hands and knowledge to serve through various groups.

Days of need

Forsyth volunteers with the United Way of Norman and the South Canadian Amateur Radio Society.

He’s been a member of the Norman Emergency Response Team since 2008, where volunteers are trained to respond to emergencies in the community — tornadoes, floods and other disasters.

“I lend my expertise in weather radar interpretation during severe weather, especially tornadoes, by working at the Norman Emergency Management office,” he said. “During the 2012 tornado, we helped manage a shelter in central Norman.”

He also has helped in other ways following disasters through the work of his church, Memorial Presbyterian Church.

“Following the May 3 (1999) tornado, we took our chainsaws and helped a family in Moore clear the trees from their house and property,” he said.

His primary volunteer effort today is establishing the National Weather Museum and Science Center. The goal of the museum is to preserve important weather artifacts and educate the public about weather, especially severe weather.

“We would like to preserve weather history and improve the public’s safety response to severe weather,” Forsyth said. “I started working on this project in the early 1990s, and I currently serve as the chairman of the board of trustees. We received our 501(c)3 status in 2007.

“We now have a transportable museum that we plan to take to schools and community events. We are currently raising funds to build a permanent facility.”

Keil Pirtle is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration public affairs specialist in Norman and is a board member of the National Weather Museum and Science Center. Pirtle has worked with Forsyth for more than 15 years.

“Doug is the kind of person who inspires you to be better and do more,” Pirtle said. “He leads through his positive attitude and generous actions. One small example is the way he signs his emails, ‘Have a fine day.’”

Thank you

Forsyth believes giving is a way of saying thanks.

“I do these things to try and make things a little better and give back some of what has been given to me,” he said. “We all have the capability to help someone in need and we are called to love our neighbors.”

Bryan Painter

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