Ford Robbins

Date of Birth

November 20th, 1942

Date of Death

June 25th, 2015

Memorial Meeting

Santa Fe Monthly Meeting


Ford Maclaughlin Robbins, 72, on June 25, 2015, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Ford was born November 20, 1942, to Orem Robbins and Jean Fairman in San Pedro, California. Growing up in Minneapolis, Ford skippered sailboats and taught sailing, printed school newspapers and yearbooks, joined bands and choruses, was active in Boy Scouts, and learned photographic dark room skills capturing images with his Brownie Hawkeye camera.

He and Margaret Cornelison met as students at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin and married in 1966.  After completing a law degree at the University of Minnesota Law School they moved to California where Ford served in the US Air Force, practicing diverse military law. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in California and daughter Heather was born in Japan while Ford was appointed United States Claims Commissioner and Negotiator for the Okinawa Reversion Treaty. A visit to ground zero in Hiroshima reinforced Ford’s pacifism. 

Returning to Minnesota, he was active with environmental legal matters through the Sierra Club. He later volunteered with homeless services and provided legal assistance to immigrants.  He was generous with his time and creativity while responding with compassion to the concerns of many. 

After retiring, Ford and Margaret moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where Ford set up a photography studio and darkroom at their home and concentrated on his photography that focused on the stunning quality of light and beauty in the natural environment. His photos have been included in exhibitions at the New Mexico State Museums, the Albuquerque Museum, The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, as well as in many private, corporate, and public collections.  A book of his photography, Connections: A Visual Journey, was published by Red Mountain Press in 2009. His entire portfolio was accepted into the permanent collection of the N.M. Museum of History in the Palace of the Governors.

Since his childhood, trains were a special interest.  Ford and other family members rode Amtrak trains. One of his last successful acts ensured that the Southwest Chief’s passenger route through New Mexico was secured after closure had been threatened.  

Ford was a long-time attender and active in the life of Santa Fe Monthly Meeting as Clerk of Ministry and Oversight, as Treasurer, and serving on other committees. His service on the Future Planning Committee of Santa Fe Monthly Meeting led him to become active in 2009 with the South Santa Fe Quaker Worship Group under the care of Santa Fe Monthly Meeting. During his years of dedication to religious education and good order of Friends, Ford led that worship group’s long-range planning process. He was very instrumental in its growth from a worship group into the Quaker House Santa Fe Meeting (preparative). As treasurer he handled the myriad financial details of purchasing and establishing their meetinghouse. In his last year of life, he led the process for gathering the history of the worship group.

Ford was fascinated by the intersection of his own family’s story of settling in Radcliffe, Iowa, and the Quaker Norwegian diaspora which he documented in Quaker Sloopers: The Search for Religious Freedom.

As Ford’s body weakened with multiple myeloma, he welcomed visitors to his bedside. Margaret and Ford shared their gratitude for the friends who stopped by and for the lovely view from their living room of the birds and wildlife, summer wildflowers, and changing colors of the sky.

A meeting for worship to celebrate Ford’s life was held on October 4, 2015, World Quaker Day.  We will miss Ford’s kindness, vast thoughtfulness, and wry humor.