WILMINGTON — Frederick Robert Foster Jr., 95, known to his family and friends as “Bob” Foster, passed away Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
The oldest son of 13 children, he was born Oct. 27, 1925, in the lower downtown district of Philadelphia to a devout Faith Tabernacle family. Some church services were held in homes for the lack of a church. His great-grandfather, George Washington Foster, served two terms in the Union Army during the Civil War, where his regiment was among the troops that fought in the infamous battle of Antietam, which is known as the bloodiest day in American history and would be the catalyst for Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. Miraculously, his grandfather survived.
Bob, his brothers and sisters were denied attendance at public school as a result of their family’s faith, which did not believe in much of modern medicine at that time. But it was a close-knit family, where all 13 brothers and sisters cared for each other. Elder children lent a hand with household duties and helped their mother with the youngest ones. Despite the hardships of growing up in such a large family during the Great Depression, they learned to entertain each other with skits and similar types of parody sketches that would leave an enduring impact on Bob’s sense of humor for the rest of his life.
Bob’s lack of formal education and the higher expectations of his role as the eldest son in this large family compelled him to a lifelong pursuit to better himself and provide for his family. Not finishing high school, he entered the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II to support the country’s war effort, enlisting in 1944 at the age of 18. Unknowingly, he opted for a specific queue at the enlistment office. Later, he found out that everyone who was in the other enlistment line died in combat. He was enrolled in the U.S. Navy, but needed to serve more time to complete his enlistment. Bob remained in the South Pacific after the war had ended until June 1946 at the age of 20 years old.
Like many other enlisted men from the World War II, Bob returned to the United States eager to begin the next phase of his life. Which, like many, included meeting his sweetheart and starting a family. He met Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Hague, the only daughter with three brothers from a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, family. They both shared a love of music, the beach and the prospects of the post-war era. Before long, they were married on Aug. 28, 1948, at the age of 22 and were soon blessed with a daughter, Patricia (March 2, 1949); and a son, Ronald (March 24, 1950). Bob worked with his father at a hosiery mill in northern Delaware just outside of Philadelphia.
Bob realized early on that he wanted to provide a better life for his young family, but his prospects at the hosiery mill would not meet those expectations. Several of his sisters worked for the local Avon factory in the Newark, Delaware, area and helped him get an entry-level job. He was determined to do his very best. He worked hard, went to night school, earned his GED, took advanced classes and sought to learn something new every day. Bob’s efforts lead to a very successful 35-year career at Avon that encompassed a series of progressive promotions as well as national and international assignments, culminating in an executive position at Avon’s world headquarters in New York City.
During those years, tragedy would fall on Bob and Betty. Their eldest daughter, Patty, would succumb to a brain tumor at the age of five. Their next child, James, would pass the same day as his birth. But they were blessed with another son, Gary (April 12, 1957) and another daughter, Carolyn (Dec. 1, 1961) after the loss of their other children.
Bob is remembered for his self-made drive to make the most of himself and provide the best he could for his wife and children. His passions included music, golf, family and an endless desire to entertain his children and grandchildren from the spontaneity of his youth.
He enjoyed nearly 96 years of life and is survived by brothers and sisters, Ralph, Richard, Jane, Hazel and Mary, and their spouses; three children, Ron, Gary and Carolyn, and their spouses and children; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Bob Foster is interred in the Landfall Infinity Garden, Wilmington, next to Betty, his wife of 61 years.