As life moves along in its daily rhythms, there seldom seems time for deep reflection. But every so often, that hour does arrive.
For John Foster ’51, one of those times came when he turned 90 in May and sent an email to Loomis Chaffee.
“I began to realize more than ever my gratitude for good health, a caring family, and a solid education,” John wrote. “My years at Loomis allowed me to appreciate my abilities, to identify my shortcomings, and to learn the value of both individual work and teamwork.”
He said he always will be indebted to former Loomis French teacher Joe Stookins, who gave him an opportunity that would change his life. John was, as he described, a “fledgling student of French.”
Joe arranged for John to spend the summer of 1951 with three families in France on an American Field Service Scholarship.
“As a result of that pivotal experience, I majored in French at Yale,” John said. “I was hooked on things French and, after three years with the U.S. Air Force, I sought out Joe, inquiring if there were any openings at Loomis for a French teacher. While there were no positions available at Loomis, Joe arranged for me to interview at Choate.”
John was hired in 1959 at Choate and spent 10 years there. He became head of the French Department and coached varsity tennis.
“My team, in alternate years, would travel to Loomis where Stan Shimkus (my coach when I played on the Loomis varsity) was still coaching the team,” John recalled. “We both chuckled at the coincidence.”
John left Choate to become the Head of Languages at Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., where he worked from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. His wife Lorraine taught nursing at a local college. Together they raised a son and a daughter.
John initiated programs in France for Emma Willard students.
“I wanted them to experience the kind of homestay experience that I had had at their age,” John said.
In retirement John joined the community theater in Sun City Center, Fla., eventually becoming president. He stayed busy in many other ways.
“I also taught bridge for almost 30 years and have introduced the game to more than 1,000 residents,” John said. “In 2013, I was voted runner-up in a nationwide contest for ‘Bridge Teacher of the Year,’ sponsored by the American Contract Bridge League. Finally, I have become a serious student of poetry and have published four collections, available on Amazon.”
In March John’s wife died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. John and his daughter created a garden in her memory at his independent living facility.
“Lorraine inspired me in developing a love for gardening and a love for birds (her favorite was the hummingbird),” John said. “On Mother's Day this year my daughter and I visited her memorial garden and a hummingbird appeared. We took it as a sign.”
John’s first publication of his poetry was at the age of 75. He has had three more publications since, has won various awards, and in 2013 was appointed National Poetry Judge by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. John wrote a poem, “Fast Colors,” distributed as a bookmark during a dinner of Loomis graduates celebrating their reunion of 50 or more years at Reunion Weekend in 2016.
The maroon and grey ribbon
that once tied us together
has unraveled into
a lengthy strip of years.
But we have held fast
to those colors and
though the ribbon has laid down
different paths for us, its colors
have not faded over time.
Our Loomis Chaffee ribbon
decorates us all
with pride of school,
And at reunion,
it binds us again together,
as we were….
students, classmates, friends.
John is a member of the Florida State Poets Association. In an interview with that organization, he tells how he got started.
“In my family there was always a poem to accompany a birthday or anniversary celebration, to mark a special event. Friends and relatives were there to read and recite ditties and tributes,” John told the publication. “Having grown up in this tradition, I later found myself writing poetic tributes each spring for departing faculty.”
He said he discovered a website, World of Poets, where he posted his work and got feedback. He learned more about the craft and said one of his online friends suggested he publish his work.
“It’s never too late to discover one’s passion, and to create a legacy,” he told the publication.