John Foster West
HIGH POINT -- Professor West, 89, died May 2, 2008 at home.
John Foster, as he preferred to be called, was born December 10, 1918 in Wilkes County, NC to John Wilkes and Elvira Foster West during the flu epidemic of that year. John attended Mars Hill College in 1941, where he met his future wife, Nan Elizabeth Love. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, where he learned to fly and when the war ended, taught airplane mechanics until he was honorably discharged in 1945. He graduated with a BA in English from UNC, Chapel Hill in 1947 and a MA in 1949. As an undergraduate, he was involved in establishing the 'Carolina Quarterly,' a literary journal still in existence today. He also did doctoral work in English and Journalism at Chapel Hill and the University of Iowa.
He taught English and creative writing for 42 years at three different colleges. He was at Elon College, NC from 1949 to 1958, Old Dominion College in Norfolk, VA from 1958 to 1968 and, in 1968, Appalachian State University (ASU) to when he retired, professor emeritus, in January, 1991. At ASU, along with teaching, he was writer-and-poet-in-residence and mentored hundreds of aspiring writers and poets throughout the years. After retiring, he traveled extensively to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
John will be remembered most as a North Carolina writer, poet, historian and activist for the preservation and ecology of his beloved mountains. His first published book of poetry 'Up Ego' was written while he was teaching at Elon College in 1951. In 1965, John received wide acclaim for his first novel, 'Time Was.' Published by Random House, the publishers submitted his novel to be considered for a Pulitzer Prize. Other books were: "Appalachian Dawn," 1973 a sequel to 'Time Was,' the 'Ballad of Tom Dula,' 1990 and the Appalachian Consortium's Appalachian Fiction Award, 'The Summer People' in 1989. In addition to varied contributions to magazines and other periodicals, books of poetry include 'This Proud Land,' photography by Bruce Roberts, 'Wry Wine' and 'High Noon at Pompeii.'
John received many awards and acknowledgements during his prolific career. He has appeared in 'Who's Who in the South and Southwest,' 'Who's Who Among American Scholars,' 'Contemporary Authors' and the 'Dictionary of International Biography.' He was past president of the NC Writers Conference, NC Folklore Society and Sigma Delta Chi, the professional journalism fraternity.
In addition to his parents, John was preceded in death by his wife, Nan, who died in 1966; his brothers, Leonard, Arnold, James and Ted; his sisters, Vernice Arms, Verlee Crump and Orene Burrell.
He is survived by his daughters, Betsy West of Charlotte, NC; Leah Killingsworth and husband, Ted of High Point, NC; son, John K. West of Boone; and three grandchildren, Karma, Ethan and Logan West of Silva City, NC. plus a host of nieces and nephews.
John Foster West was a fascinating, eccentric, brilliant, caring, introspective man and he will be missed by all who knew and loved him.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of John Foster West will be held on Friday, May 9, 2008 at 2:00 PM at Mount Lawn Memorial Park and Gardens, 521 Old E. Kings St. (421) in Boone, NC.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the John Foster West Scholarship Fund, care of the English Department at Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Online condolences may be submitted through www.cumbyfuneral.com.
Arrangements by Cumby Family Funeral Service in High Point, NC.
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store
Published by Charlotte Observer on May 7, 2008.