Frank P. Forbath, who co-founded an Orange County nonprofit to help farmworkers and others living in poverty with medical care, food and housing, died Sept. 2 at his home in Costa Mesa, his family said. He was 90.
With his wife, Jean, Forbath started Share Our Selves in 1970 after the nation’s Catholic bishops urged church members to “wage war on misery.”
When the bishops issued their call, in the mid-1960s, Forbath was the head of an adult education program at St. John the Baptist Catholic church in Costa Mesa. He mobilized church members and began doing research that left him appalled by the poverty he found.
When he launched Share Our Selves, or SOS, the initial focus was helping migrant farmworkers. In the early 1970s, the group’s members conducted a survey that found dismal conditions at most of the two dozen migrant labor camps operating in the county. The controversial study helped spark an investigation by the Orange County grand jury that was critical of state authorities and led to the county taking over camp inspections.
Over the years, SOS also helped staff community centers in poor neighborhoods, provided lunches for needy Santa Ana schoolchildren and supported a volunteer clinic run by UC Irvine students. In 1984, the group opened a medical clinic that soon served more than 1,000 patients a month. The nonprofit now operates centers in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Santa Ana and Lake Forest.
Born in Los Angeles in 1925, Forbath was raised by a single mother in poverty. He enrolled at UCLA when he was 16 and, after graduating, served as a naval officer during World War II.
After the war, he earned a master’s degree at Stanford University and went to work in the aerospace industry.
Besides his wife, he is survived by seven children and 15 grandchildren.