Leroy Forney


PHILADELPHIA—Leroy Snyder Forney, 84, died at home during the early morning hours of Friday, May 26, 2023. 

In keeping with Leroy’s wishes, his mortal remains have been cremated. The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia will convene a memorial service on Saturday, June 3 at 11am, with Reverend Abbey Tennis officiating. The church is located at 2125 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, PA.

Leroy was born on August 11, 1938 in Lancaster, PA to Roy Swarr Forney and Mary Snyder Forney. He attended Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, where in 1960 he earned a bachelor’s degree in organic chemistry, and Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, where in 1965 he earned a PhD in Chemistry. 

Leroy lived during the 1970s in Metuchen, NJ, then spent the 1980s in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Puerto Rico before returning to Philadelphia in the early 1990s. During that time, he worked in industrial chemical research, medical device development, electronic engineering, and he invented a pocket-size device to prevent snoring that was ahead of its time—the same design later became standard. He fulfilled a longtime goal in 2004-2005 by serving in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, where he taught chemistry in a village outside Mwanza.

Leroy worked later in life as an artist. He was resident artist in 2014 at the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, and in Philadelphia he has displayed his oil paintings at the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Plastic Club, and the Off-The-Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s. Among his favorite works are his recent pieces in cardboard, and a series of portraits in 2011 of demonstrators at Occupy Philadelphia rallies. His portrait of American abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper hangs at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.  

Leroy loved jazz, classical, and choral music. He sang in many choirs, including the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, conducted by Donald Nally, and the choir of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, conducted by John B. He sang with choirs that toured Poland before the fall of the Iron Curtain, and that performed at the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. 

Leroy is survived by his two children, Matthew Forney of Vicenza, Italy and Beijing, China, and Ellen Forney of Seattle. He is also survived by his two grandchildren, Roy and Alice Forney. He leaves behind his sister, Allegra Sanner, his partner, Phyllis Barsky, and the mother of his children, Diane Gabe. He was preceded in death by his parents, by his brother, Joseph Forney, by his sisters, Anna Ruth Ebersole, Miriam Hassen, and Arlene Stauffer, and by his wife, Nancy Vaughn.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.