There was a charming story in the November edition of the Happenings newsletter, under the heading “Remembrances of Eileen Foster in her 100th Year (As told to Sylvia Valloric, scribe).”
It happened in Stuttgart, Germany in 1945, right at the end of the war. Her husband was part of the American Zone Constabulary, and Eileen was there, too. She volunteered in a shop the Lutheran Church ran to distribute clothing and other scarce goods, donated back in the States, to the German people.
As Eileen related, and Sylvia wrote:
One morning, an elderly German woman entered the shop with her young grandson to see what children’s winter clothing had arrived in the shipment from southwestern Pennsylvania. After much perusal in the boy’s section, the grandson appeared clutching a pair of cowboy boots with pointed toes and high heels, which were much too big. His grandmother tried to dissuade him of his choice, but he was adamant and left the shop cradling his boots and a winter jacket.
From that time forward, we always knew when he entered the shop by the sound of his oversized cowboy boots clattering on the wooden floors.
Mrs. Foster, who was born on Oct. 19, 1920, has many other stories to tell. Unfortunately, what with the cautions necessitated by COVID-19, she and her friend Sylvia have been unable to get together to talk about them.
Fortunately, Mrs. Foster has received the coronavirus vaccine, so maybe their reunion isn’t far off. As for the vaccination, she says it was a breeze. “No, it didn’t hurt. Just like any shot you have, any inoculation you get.” She went on to praise the group that came from CVS to give the injections to folks in the catered living area, saying the whole operation was “very efficient.”
In a phone interview the next day, she related some more of her stories:
Long before the war, she recalls, “I graduated from high school in China. My father was stationed there.” He was there in keeping with the treaty that had ended the Boxer Rebellion at the start of the century. Eileen’s family arrived there in the 1930s. As her mother unpacked, her father took her to the nearby British school to enroll her. But “The headmaster was very arrogant to me,” saying that due to the inferiority of American schools, she would be put back two years. “I can still remember my father standing up to his full height. He marched us out,” and she ended up graduating from the local French school. But to graduate, she still had to pass the Cambridge Overseas Schools Certificate (COSC) exam. “The British called the shots in the Far East,” she remembers, so you had to have the COSC to get any kind of good job. “Parents demanded it.”
In the late 1940s, Eileen’s husband was in Vilseck, Germany, dealing with displaced persons from across Europe who were trying to make their way to America. When an American soldier was injured in an accident, Col. Foster took him to be treated by a displaced physician. Years later, after retirement, the Fosters were living in Gordonsville, Va., when Eileen suffered a broken arm. The little hospital referred her to a group of doctors in Charlottesville. When they arrived, they were seen by the doctor who just happened to be treating walk-ins that day. His name was Dr. Tatar. Mr. Foster said, “You know, I once took someone to be treated by a Dr. Tatar in Germany.” Said the doctor: “Well, that was my father.”
Mrs. Foster has a niece who until retirement worked at a hospital in Seattle. For a time last year, she came out of retirement to help as the coronavirus arrived on our shores. Three of the first cases in the country were brought to the niece’s hospital, from a cruise ship off Japan. This was in February, before most Americans had heard the word, “COVID.” Now, Mrs. Foster marvels at how the world has changed: “Nationwide, from three cases. Extraordinary.”
Some of her stories are about living at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge. She knows a lot of them, because she and her husband were among the first to move in, right at the beginning of WCBR’s 30-year history. “Everybody couldn’t come in the opening day,” she explains, so “opening day” was spread out until the end of December 1990. The Fosters asked to be among the last, so they could spend Christmas in their home one more time. She likes to remember details from those early days – like the commercial car wash that was on the property before WCBR was established, and continued to operate on the grounds. “Staff would use the car wash to wash the fleet,” she recalls. Residents took advantage of it as well: “My husband used it quite a bit.”
Sylvia Valloric, an independent living resident who is only 86 herself, looks forward to asking her friend Eileen about all those years at WCBR when they’re able to get together again.
Sylvia recalls the time, back when Eileen was only 99, that she decided she wanted a motorized scooter. She told her physical therapist, “I don’t like the walkers, and I want to get around.”
Another resident had a scooter, but the battery was dead. Eileen said that was OK; she’d buy a new one.
Soon after, Sylvia learned about it when “I got this knock on the door of my cottage. There was Mrs. Foster on her scooter, with her beret on.”
Sylvia laughed, saying, “You remind me of the scooters in Europe, on the Champs-Élysées!”
“We chatted a little bit,” then Mrs. Foster announced, “Now I’m going to practice! I’ll see you later..”
And off she went.