John Alvin Foster

In Loving Memory of John Alvin Foster

John was born on April 30 1917 in Youngstown, Alberta. John’s parents marry in 1914. 

His father, John Salisbury Foster, works as a brakeman for the railroad. Kindersley to Hannah Alberta, a railway center with round house, telephone, power and dam for steam engine power house. In the summer of 1923 the family travel on railroad passes to Vancouver and arrive at the Ivanhoe Hotel. They share a house on East Hastings Street for the summer with another family returning to Hannah for Christmas. The next summer taking the CN going west to Salem Oregon to visit family, his father buys a used 1923 Chevrolet touring car. They store the car in Blaine and return home to Hannah. The following summer they drive the car from Blain to Hannah.

In 1925 his mother Nina (Davis) raises two dozen turkeys to sell for Christmas. 

His father buys a one ton Chevrolet truck to haul grain and coal. Another time his father partners with an uncle Art Davis and aunt Joy to raise thoroughbred horses. His mother cooks for the big threshing crews during harvest on the homesteads of her brothers and her husband’s family farm.

The older Foster family also homestead in Chinook – a 65 mile train trip and then 16 miles by horse to the farm. It has a wind generator dad built from two planks to charge his radio battery – he gets plans from the department of Agriculture. Makes his own battery out of old beer bottles (45 cells). John scrounges the left over hay to buy a Marconi console radio. 

He has a passion for radio all his life. And a dog named Buster who pulls him around on his wagon and in his teens walks 3.5 miles to high school in Kailey because it’s a country school.

In the 1920’s his family live in four houses, spend 10 years in Hannah and four years in Nanton. John’s grandfather and grandmother Foster farm in the Vulcan area in partnership with his father and Billy Skinks. At the age of 12, he contracts rheumatic fever and is sent home to die, the doctor can do nothing. He misses a year of school but is nursed to health by his mother with potato soup made from canned milk and frozen potatoes.

His mother’s family the Davis’s, arrive in covered wagon after a one month journey from Kansas in 1909 after trading property in Kansas for property in Naton, Alberta. They have six sons and each homestead 640 acres. Uncles are a large part of John’s life with so many on both sides, farming and share-cropping homesteads.

During John’s childhood his father suffers a lengthy illness, the family split up to stay with uncles and aunts, as his parents visit doctors and the Mayo Clinic in the states.

John goes with his favorite uncle Ed Davis to B.C. Uncle Ed is a single man and they spend time camping at Willow Creek over the summer and on Halloween Day 1934 leave Blairmore, Alberta before crossing the Crows’ Nest Pass to the Kootenay Lakes Trinity Valley. 

They check in with the police to travel in B.C. They trade some sheep and continue on to Creston and Lumby. The road over the Monashee Mountains to Vernon has a switch back so sharp the vehicle has to back into it to navigate the sharp bend.

Once in Enderby they stay with the Brambles. He and his uncle Ed and Mr. Bramble apply for preemption in Sicamous – the Stump Ranch. Later they stay with the Steppes in Sicamous and after a certain period of time in B.C. they could go to the relief camp on Mara Lake. It was a nine mile walk to Sicamous and on Sundays off they trudge the distance to visit friends. In late Spring the following year he and his Uncle Ed and Mr. Bramble move into a tent and start to clear the land by hand. That summer (1935) Dad’s parents and sisters Carmen and Lucy and brother David move out to Sicamous. In 1938 Dad’s father dies in VGH at the age of 50.

The old-timers in Clearwater called him Slim. He was originally called Long Slim while he and a majority of his family were employed at the Britannia Mine in the late 30’s early 40’s. In his 20’s, living in Vancouver, he scrapes together for an old Indian motorcycle and motors in a club. During the second war he studies to be a welder and works in the shipyards of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

After the shipyards he buys a transport truck to haul and deliver coal to homes in Vancouver with a commercial license, which eventually brings him to Kamloops where a chance meeting with Frank Capostinsky in front of the Highlander Restaurant (his favourite meal there was veal cutlets) results in a good situation hauling lumber from the mill to the planner in Clearwater. He moves to Clearwater permanently in 1945 and hauls lumber for Clearwater Timber Products until his mid 70’s when the mill shut down.

He and Colleen Green marry in 1955. They drive down to Mexico for a honeymoon fishing Sierra Mackerel and upon return set up house at the bottom of Steggs Hill where John had a collection of buildings.

Here they begin family life. Together they enjoy camping and fishing and community life. During the 60’s the family grows larger and eventually a bigger house is built on the same property. In the early 70’s the family moves a few minutes away to Glen Eddy where they take up hobby farming and John takes up flying. Flying becomes a fun thing for him and he takes to the air and continues his interest in flying into his early 90’s. 

On June 16, 2014, John passes away suddenly in the wee hours at his home in Clearwater, B.C. He has lived alone for the last 10 years. He is survived by his ex-wife Colleen Foster, children Johnny, Lee Ann (Steve Wynnyk), Suzanne (Kevin Henderson), Jason (Lena) and Dana (Steve Ludwig). His grandchildren Celeste Foster-Vallee, Emerson Foster, Astrid Foster-Ludwig, Maximus and Dimitri Foster and Sienna Foster-Henderson. 

He is predeceased by his father John Foster at 50, his infant daughter Shelley at two days old, his mother Nina at 96, his younger brother David – tragically killed in a car accident leaving behind a wife and four young children, his sister Carmen and sister Lucy in the early the 2000’s, both remained close to him. He has many cousins and nieces and nephews whose company he enjoyed. John enjoys his memories to the end.

John was a good provider, a pilot and all round monkey-wrencher. He was fiercely independent, lived life the way he wanted and was proud of his independence. ‘You’re only as old as you want to be’ he’d say. The little creatures around the house become his close companions as he lives out the last days of his life. RIP Slim Foster

A celebration of his life will be held on October 4th 2014 at 2 p.m. at Glen Eddy. Condolences for the family may be sent to North Thompson Funeral Services. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Clearwater Food Bank or the SPCA.


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