Werner H. Fornos, who fled post-World War II Germany as a teen and became an advocate for global population control after serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, died of diabetic complications Jan. 16 at his home in Basye, Va.
The former Davidsonville resident was 79.
Born Werner Horst Farenhold in Leipzig, Germany, he was separated from his family during the World War II during Allied bombing when the apartment building where the family lived was destroyed. In a 1993 article in Current Biography, he recalled being trapped beneath rubble for three days before a search party rescued him after hearing him tapping on water pipes.
Nazi authorities later charged him with playing with firecrackers on a church roof that led to "a plot to aid enemy forces in locating the city." He was put in a political reform school and whipped.
He related in the Current Biography article that in July 1944 he escaped from the school "by hiding in the brake box of a train transporting German troops to Normandy, France."
"Werner made several attempts to get into the United States," said a co-worker, Hal Burdett, who lives in Annapolis. "In the first of these, he was smuggled onto a troop ship by soldier friends, but was discovered by Army officers who turned him over to German welfare workers while the vessel was still docked in Bremerhaven."
He was then about 12 years old and made three additional attempts to hide on troop ships. He twice got as far as New York and then reached Ohio. "An infantry corporal had given him his address and told him to look him up if he ever got to the States," Mr. Burdett said. "By the time Fornos reached the address, the corporal had moved and there was no forwarding address. He was again turned over to immigration officials and sent back."
Mr. Fornos remained determined to leave Germany. He hid in a U.S. transport plane's baggage compartment and made it to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Again he faced deportation when he was discovered.
Elizabeth L. Fornos, a church group member from Newton, Mass., was visiting persons due for deportation at the East Boston Immigration Detention Center. She and her husband, Jaime Fornos, received permission to house him temporarily.
Mr. Burdett said the couple thought the 16-year-old would be shipped back to East Germany, then controlled by Russian authorities. They were joined by neighbors and other groups in bringing the case to the attention of U.S. Rep. Christian Herter. They lobbied successfully to have him declared a legal immigrant. House of Representatives Majority Leader John W. McCormack intervened, and he was declared an American citizen by an act of Congress. He was subsequently adopted by the Fornoses and changed his name to Werner Fornos, Mr. Burdett said.
He went on to serve in the Army and was stationed in Fort Meade. He later bought a small farm in Davidsonville and became a Pan American airlines public relations spokesman. He ran successfully as Democrat for the Maryland House of Delegates. He served from 1967 to 1970. Mr. Burdett recalled that Mr. Fornos served on the environmental matters committee and worked on Chesapeake Bay protection. He also advocated a second Bay Bridge and led a fight to keep slot machines out of the state.
He ran unsuccessfully for Anne Arundel county executive and in 1970 was named assistant secretary for manpower in the state's Department of Employment and Social Services. He also ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 1972 and 1976.
Mr. Burdett said that Mr. Fornos was advised by former Sen. Joseph Tydings to take a post at the Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood offices. He did and in 1982 also joined the Population Action Council, a division of the Population Institute. He later became president of the Population Institute and spoke out for world population stabilization.
"He was a tremendous speaker and an energetic guy," Mr. Burdett said. "He was at his best while on the road, talking to colleges and service organizations."
Following his retirement as president of the institute in 2005, he established Global Population Education.
"He was a leader in the forward march against excess fertility," said Rei Ravenholt, a retired U.S. Agency for International Development global population leader who lives in Seattle, Wash. "He had an indefatigable pursuit for what he was interested in."
He received the 2003 United Nations Population Award and the 1991 Humanist of the Year Award of the American Humanist Association.
A life celebration will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at Bryce Mountain Lodge in Basye, Virginia.
Survivors include his life partner, Moyne Gross of Basye, Va.; a daughter, Elizabeth Ann Kellerman of Stone Mountain, Ga.; two sons, Jaime Martin Fornos of Queen Anne and Werner Fornos Jr. of Northampton, Pa.; his partner's children, Jennifer Jeanne Gross of Branford, Conn., Paul Edward Gross of Boulder, Colo., and Jon Gross of Moraga, Calif.; three brothers, Karl Heinz Farenhold of Berlin, Germany, Joachim Farenhold and Berbel Farenhold, both of Leipzig; a sister, Monika Farenhold of Berlin; and 12 grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun