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Nancy  E. (Ator) Forbes

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“Richard and family,I am so very sorry to hear of Nancy's passing.You are in my thoughts and prayers.Warmly,Dr. Nancy RobergeChestnut Hill PT...Read More »
1 of 11 | Posted by: Nancy Roberge - Wellesley, MA

“Nancy, you were a real fighter and an inspiration. I'm glad I got to visit your garden in South Dartmouth, it taught me what a read gardener (and...Read More »
2 of 11 | Posted by: Harvey Wolkoff - Boston, MA

“Richard,Deeply sorry for your loss, thoughts are with you at this timeNiall (Peace of Mind Home Healthcare) ”
3 of 11 | Posted by: A friend

“Richard,I am sorry for your loss. ”
4 of 11 | Posted by: Robert Carlson - Jacksonville, FL

“Nancy was an inspiration for me as I battled the same kind of cancer as she. Always ready to talk, share some humorous item, and she remained...Read More »
5 of 11 | Posted by: Sally Johnston - So. Dartmouth, MA

“I will miss you always. You were like my second Mother. I love you. You are at peace now. ”
6 of 11 | Posted by: Antonetta Barone - Boston, MA

“The thoughtful obituary has described Nancy in more ways than I could ever summarize. I will simply say we (Eugenio, Elena and I) share in the grief...Read More »
7 of 11 | Posted by: Mary, Eugenio & Elena

“Dear Richard, Mike Roster told us the sad news. Gene and I are devastated for you, but pleased Nancy's suffering is at an end. She soldiered on for...Read More »
8 of 11 | Posted by: Gloria Bauer - San Rafael, CA

“We are so sad to learn about Nancy. When you're down in South Dartmouth, Richard, please let us know how we can be of help and comfort to you.Gayle...Read More »
9 of 11 | Posted by: A friend

“Richard and Joann...my thoughts and prayers are with you...Nancy always was a go getter and a true friend to many...she fought her fight but will...Read More »
10 of 11 | Posted by: Carol Westerman - Northbrook, Il

“Nancy and Richard were both so kind to me when, as an associate in Ropes & Gray's health law department, I was in Palo Alto on assignment for nearly...Read More »
11 of 11 | Posted by: Deven McGraw - Mountain View, CA


Nancy Elizabeth Forbes of Wellesley and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, died on April 12 at age 67 following a long battle with cancer. A graduate of Denison University and Northwestern University School of Law, Nancy practiced law for over thirty years as a partner of Ropes & Gray. She was a pioneer from the early days of health care law as a distinct legal discipline, serving in leadership roles in the growth of the American Bar Association's health law section, the American Academy of Health Lawyers and the American Health Lawyers Association, today the largest peer organization of health care law specialists in the United States.

Deans of schools of medicine, hospital CEOs and trustees, and leaders of organizations engaged in health care as disparate as Roman Catholic religious orders and Middle Eastern health sciences universities turned to her for her insight, for trusted advice and for her forceful representation of their interests. Preeminent universities and academic medical centers on both coasts relied on her to deploy the talent of colleagues in her firm for their benefit.

She led and taught by example. She had a keen eye for ability, gave generously to the development of younger lawyers, asked for the best from herself and those with whom she worked, and warmly credited others for their contributions. Throughout her career, she kept pace with rapid changes in health care, mastering technical and practical matters ranging from payment systems to stem cell research to the restructuring of the complex relationships comprising the modern American academic medical center. Generously sharing her professional relationships and friendships, Nancy opened doors for others. Throughout the health law community, many owe some of their most fulfilling experiences and relationships to her.

Nancy brought her trademark elegance, wit, and attention to detail to every interaction. At work, her corner of the office floor often rang with laughter as the foibles of humanity and the challenges of practicing law intersected and were worked through on a daily basis. She found joy in the absurd and a welcome challenge in the most complex situations and regulations.

Nancy's extraordinary professional tenacity was balanced by a gregarious and generous spirit. She loved getting to know people and had a zest for finding new restaurants, stores, and sights in the many cities she visited for work and pleasure. A one-woman travel and wardrobe consulting service, she would take time out of her incredibly busy schedule to send colleagues and friends who were visiting new cities detailed lists of suggested restaurants, hotels, tour guides, and boutiques, complete with addresses, phone numbers, and color commentary. She lived the rich continuum of her life with verve and enthusiasm – always opting for champagne when possible, and as proud of her gardening achievements as she was of any of the many professional awards she received.

She served as the Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of St. Aidan's Chapel, South Dartmouth, an Episcopal summer chapel; and in 2017, during the last summer of her life, spearheaded the celebration of the Chapel's 100th anniversary. This valedictory endeavor was emblematic of the grit and perseverance that carried her through a two-decade struggle with cancer. It perfectly exemplified the life of this intelligent, beautiful, and brave woman.

Nancy grew up in Winnetka, Illinois. Her father, Joseph Ator, an editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune, encouraged his daughters to respect the value of communicating clearly and carefully. He demanded correct English usage. Many Ropes & Gray associates have been the beneficiaries of Joe Ator's high standards.

Nancy inherited her father's enthusiasm for growing dahlias. At her South Dartmouth summer home, she grew prize-winning specimens that earned her the sobriquet, "Dahlia Queen." Just as she shared with her law colleagues unstintingly and with no pride of authorship the insights of an active legal mind and a trove of forms and memoranda that she had developed over the years, so she also gave away to other growers the tubers and garden secrets that won her acclaim in the hort community.

Nancy's devotion to learning and scholarship began early. She proclaimed at the end of her first day of Junior Kindergarten that she had to begin her homework, even though none had been assigned. She also had a flair for the dramatic that may have been uncovered first during her childhood when she spent indoor hours creating skits for her parents and friends, and dressing up in glamorous hats and ball gowns rooted out of the clutter of the Winnetka Congregational Church rummage sale.

Nancy was a friend "par excellence" and her many acts of thoughtfulness and generosity will be forever treasured by those friends. Last November (when it was uncertain that Nancy would live till Christmas) a friend mentioned that she was moving her parents into an assisted living facility. Unbidden, Nancy undertook due diligence, including analyzing the company's financial condition and speaking by phone to a company manager. She then advised her friend that she was making a wise choice.

Another friend recently wrote: "For me, there's never been anyone like Nancy. She was the best listener I've ever known—focused, caring, available. She was never too busy, never rushed—she was steadfast and level. She was a quiet, intent listener, never finishing my sentence or thought. She absorbed, analyzed and then posed perfect, salient questions. Our ensuing dialogue would almost always give way to light. Many of her friends, myself included, are feeling a bit rudderless at the moment."

Nancy leaves her husband Richard, of Wellesley; a sister, Joanne Ator of Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; a niece, Catherine Saunders of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; a niece, Patricia Markus of Raleigh, North Carolina; and a nephew, Michael Markus of Montgomery, Alabama. Visiting hours will be held in the Eaton Funeral Home, 1351 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA on Friday, April 27 from 4-7 pm. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 28 at The Parish of the Good Shepherd, 1671 Beacon Street, Waban, Massachusetts. Interment will take place at Woodlawn Cemetery in Wellesley, MA. In lieu of

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Parish of the Good SHepherd

1671 Beacon Street Waban, MA