Jerome Foster

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Jerome Foster Jerome Foster, resident of Los Osos, died in French Hospital on Sunday, July 6, 2014. He would have turned 89 this week. Jerry will be remembered by friends and family for his intellectual curiosity and wide-ranging and varied knowledge. His many interests included literature (he was a particular fan of James Joyce and John Dos Passos), mystery novels, liberal politics, national and international politics, Judaism, New York, pizza, tea, classical music, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, jazz, language, words, grammar, fish names, cat boats, photography, art, Wittgenstein, history, World War II, and movies. He knew something about almost every subject you brought up and could speak intelligently about pretty much anything, recalling facts and dates that others had long forgotten. As one of his friends put it, "he was so connected in the coridors of his mind." He also enjoyed cooking, walking along the water in Morro Bay, and growing tomatoes, jade plants, fig trees, and an occasional bonsai. Jerry was born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York. He was drafted in 1943 and was a soldier in Company E 337th Regiment, 85th Division. He got drunk for the first time in a restaurant called Caf Jolie in Casa Blanca. As a Private First Class in the infantry, he saw extensive action in Italy, marching through Rome the day after the city fell to allied troops. He recalls being welcomed as liberators: "There was one old guy in the crowd who was a teacher of English. He poured us all shots of whisky." Jerry was near Fienzuola, Italy when he was badly wounded by a mortar. He would spend many months recovering in Italy and back in the U.S., suffering from shrapnel wounds in his legs for the remainder of his life. Jerry attended UCLA on the GI Bill and graduated with a BA in English. After college, he returned to New York, where he was employed for a time at a bookstore, for the Liberal Party, and as a social worker for the city. During the Korean conflict, he worked for the American Red Cross and was stationed with troops in Korea and Japan. In 1957, Jerry married Joan Cole, also of Brooklyn, and the couple started an employment agency in Manhattan to place employees in health, education, welfare and related fields. After they sold the agency, Jerry was employed at the Institute of International Education and the American Association for the United Nations, where he occasionally worked with Eleanor Roosevelt. Eventually, Jerry returned to school for a Master's degree in Urban Planning from Pratt Institute. He worked as a planner for the state of New York and later for the City. In the early 1970s, his office was located on the 43rd floor of the newly built World Trade Center. In 1974, Jerry and Joan moved to Connecticut and in the late 1970s, Jerry opened a bookstore called the Bookerie in the small town of West Redding. Later, they moved to Falmouth, Massachusetts where Jerry had another bookstore, Falmouth Booksellers. Joan worked across the street at the public library and the couple would frequently meet for lunch, sharing a few sandwiches behind the counter at the bookstore. In 1987, they moved to Los Osos, where Joan became Chief Librarian at the San Luis Obispo City Library. Jerry worked at Earthling Books on Higuera Street, from the time it opened until its closing several years later. Anybody who visited the Earthling will remember Jerry as a fixture there, the old man with the beard who seemed to be able to answer obscure questions about literature, current events, music, or almost anything else. Even in his later years, Jerry was famous amongst his friends for his wide-ranging interests, profound curiosity, and eclectic knowledge. He was an avid reader of the New York Times, and sometimes completed the Sunday crossword puzzle in under an hour. He also read the New Yorker, the Economist, numerous other magazines and local newspapers, and was always working his way through a major novel or historical work. The Internet provided him with new access to the world, and he would spend hours exploring, especially trying to understand people who expressed opinions very different from his own. Jerry was humble and had a quiet, perceptive sense of humor. Though he was not gregarious, he touched many lives and attracted friends and neighbors who cared for him deeply. Jerry died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, and nurses who thought he was a sweetheart. He was preceded in death by Joan, who passed away in 2007. He is survived by his son Adam and wife Ann of London, England; his son Michael and wife Michiko of Bloomington, Indiana; and one brother, Herbert of Edgartown, Mass. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Red Cross or Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation ( Sign his guestbook at
Published in San Luis Obispo Tribune on July 11, 2014
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