Nov. 26, 1919 — June 2, 2019
Jane Ward Foster and her husband, Robert, took their two sons and three daughters tent camping every weekend — "as long as it wasn't snowing," said their youngest daughter, Sharon E. Miles, with a chuckle.
Mrs. Foster, who taught in North Tonawanda for 18 years, was devoted to nature and to children. In her 99 years and six months of life, she taught and nurtured children in church, school and scouting, happily sharing her knowledge of birds, animals, plants and flowers.
"We always knew we were loved, there was no doubt about that," her daughter said.
Mrs. Foster, a longtime resident of North Tonawanda, died June 2, 2019, in Niagara Hospice in Lockport.
She was the younger daughter of Bernese Virginia Ward and James Alfred Ward of Syracuse. Her father died when she was 8 years old, and her mother remarried Orren DeWitt.
Mrs. Foster attended local schools in Baldwinsville, then graduated from the Syracuse Normal School. She met her husband-to-be, Robert Foster, because they were involved in Boy and Girl Scouts. Her first job was working in sales in a Dey Brothers department store, her daughter said, and she also worked as a nature counselor at a local Girl Scout day camp.
The Fosters were married Aug. 24, 1940, in Syracuse, and moved to Western New York when Mr. Foster was transferred to a local office of Continental Can Co., where he became comptroller. They lived in Lockport for a short time, then lived on Klaum Avenue in North Tonawanda from 1941 until she moved away in 2016.
Mrs. Foster completed her credentials for a teaching degree at SUNY Buffalo State, then, after her youngest child entered school in 1959, taught sixth grade at Spruce Street School, as well as a few years in a program for gifted students in Ohio Elementary School, her daughter said.
The school administrators would assign the most challenging students to her class, because they knew she could inspire them to pay attention, her daughter said.
In 1966, Mrs. Foster received a Life Membership Award from the Spruce Street School PTA "for her contributions to the welfare of her students."
During her teaching years, Mrs. Foster was active in Alpha Delta Kappa, the honorary society for educators. The group's activities included assisting elderly people who lived in the Scarfone Apartments.
After retiring in 1977, Mrs. Foster would frequently run into her former students while shopping or doing other errands. "If she saw a picture of a former student in the newspaper, she would cut it out and save it," her daughter said.
Mrs. Foster was a Girl Scout leader during the years when her daughters were Scouts. She "helped hundreds of young women to appreciate the outdoors and the principles of scouting," her family said.
When their children were growing up, the Fosters spent nearly every weekend tent camping in nearby parks, their daughter said. During vacations, they took car trips to national parks, camping along the route. "I don't know how she did it," Miles said of her mother. "It was so much work."
After retirement, the couple bought a motor home. "We spent all of our years in tents, but after they retired, they got the motor home," said Miles. In it, they traveled across the United States and Canada, visiting popular birding sites, among other destinations.
The Fosters emphasized the importance of education, putting all five children through college.
Mrs. Foster was very active in St. Mark's Episcopal Church in North Tonawanda, belonging to its Altar Guild and women's group. She also taught Sunday School.
She was a member of the North Tonawanda Garden Club for seven years in the 1980s, serving twice as president. She also served as chairwoman of the City and County Heart Fund.
Mr. Foster died in 1997 after they had been married for 56 years.
Mrs. Foster had a large group of friends, and enjoyed playing bridge and having lunch with them.
Besides her youngest daughter Sharon E. Miles, Mrs. Foster is survived by two sons, Robert L. and Dennis D. Foster; two other daughters, Mollie F. Kane and Patricia F. Dickinson; 13 grandchildren; and 24 great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 61 Payne Ave., North Tonawanda.