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Donald B. Fouser

Emmy Award winning T.V. producer and a long-time resident of Ipswich Donald B. "Don" Fouser, died July 3rd after a gallant battle with melanoma. He was 83 years old. Don's career was varied and his interests universal and passionate. He built harpsichords and reported for three major New England newspapers but is most noted for a number of public affairs programs produced for WGBH that addressed significant emerging issues. His programs had an edge. For example, his program on Vietnam, made in 1961 as part of a series on Foreign Aid, was the first to be critical of the growing American involvement. Another on the "New Conservatives" featured interviews with people such as Milton Friedman and others when they were still relatively unknown. He made his most famous program, V-D Blues, for Channel 13, New York, in 1971. Don's approach was revolutionary. The program aimed at reversing the pandemic of venereal diseases then raging. It didn't follow the usual, dull, sex- education approach larded with interludes of heavy-handed preaching. It was mostly a comedy program with Dick Cavit serving as MC and with songs and skits around the diseases. One skit featured Zero Mostel, made up to look like a germ, enjoying the comfortable environment of the human body until hit with an antibiotic. The program was groundbreaking in that Don had arranged with T.V. stations as well as federal and state health agencies to be standing by all over the country with open lines and operators prepared to provide information about all aspects of venereal diseases to callers, no questions asked. On top of that, Don had thousands of copies of the program printed in comic book format for distribution at places that young people and other vulnerable groups were apt to gather. The response was overwhelming and demonstrated that the impact of TV programs upon behavior could be dramatically enhanced when viewers were able to quickly contact local agencies that provided follow-up services. The success of VD Blues begs the question as to why the same approach was not tried in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. In connection with the 200th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Don produced a number of programs titled "Ourstory" for use in schools. Again, Don innovated. Instead of yet another set of "audio-visual aids" that told students the story of America, the programs provided students with evidence that illuminated key episodes in our nation's history and then asked them to create their versions of "Ourstory". Ever active, Don, in his later years turned his hand to building and refurbishing homes. His most notable accomplishment as a builder is what he did with his own property in Ipswich. When he purchased it in the 1960's It consisted of a run down Federalist period house on a piece of land that was more dumping ground than yard. Don set about restoring the house with authentic moldings and a curved veranda overlooking the garden. He then built a barn in keeping with the style of the house. A tasteful three-unit town-house complex and a sculpture garden connecting all the buildings rounded out his vision. Over the years he transformed a neglected wasteland into an island of beauty gracing the heart of town. Like everything else that Don did it exemplifies high standards and good taste. Don often said that his work called for him to be a "nay sayer" to people who questioned his vision. When it came to living, however, he was a "yea sayer". He had a passion for the things in life that extend and enhance our humanity and he pursued them with great gusto. He read constantly and greedily (often three or four books at a time) and amassed a library that speaks to his many and varied interests and enthusiasms. He loved music and listened to it as seriously as he read books. His extensive collection of records, tapes, and CD's like his library, is far ranging and extends from ragtime and Cole Porter to his favorite, Johann Sebastian Bach. Don was a master cook. He spared no effort to prepare dishes the right way even if it meant sending to Canada to obtain the specified variety of oyster. But the true reason he cooked was to share his accomplishments with friends at dinner parties over which he presided. Don would nudge the discussions that ranged over the arts, politics, and public affairs but always allowed for gales of laughter that he hoped, "...would knock the paint off the ceiling." Having grown up on the shore of Long Island Sound, Don loved the sea and sailing. He bought a large Skipjack, the Daisy B. It was a working Chesapeake Bay oyster boat. Don sailed her to Ipswich. The next season, when the 55 foot mast broke, he went to Vermont, selected a tree, and had it cut down After getting it to Ipswich he handcrafted it into a perfect replica of the original mast. For a number of summers the Daisy B plied the water off Ipswich. Don served in the Navy in World War II and upon discharge enrolled at Brown University where he graduated with honors in English in 1951. He immediately returned to the navy to serve during the Korean War. After his second navy stint, he studied for a year at Boston University Law School. He enjoyed another university experience while working for public television in New York. He was awarded a prestigious journalism fellowship at Columbia University that gave him access to seminars and lectures, with leading national and world scholars as well as to meetings with noted figures from the worlds of politics, business and the media. He was a man who threw himself into life with gusto, forever seeking and accepting new challenges. He was working on a novel and his memoirs at the time of his death. He was a true Renaissance man. Don is survived by his wife, Judith; his two sons Joshua and Jason, both of Ipswich, and his daughter, Rebekah, of Florida and by eight grandchildren. Don was the son of the late George J. and Margaret Whitaker Fouser of Branford, Connecticut and is also survived by his older brother George, of Branford, his sister-in-law, Rosie and six nephews and nieces. A private memorial service will be held at his home at a later date.

Published in Chronicle Transcript from July 23 to July 30, 2011
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