July 27, 1927 – March 3, 2019
Barbara R. (Spencer) Foster, of Townsend, MT, passed away in her home surrounded by family on March 3rd, 2019. She was 91 years old.
Barbara was born on July 27, 1927, in Mountainair, New Mexico. Her early years were spent in the small, mining mountain town of Terrero, NM, located north of Santa Fe. Later, the family moved back to Mountainair, where she and her three sisters, Helen, Verna Nell and Patsy, and two brothers, Roy Jr. and Richard were raised by parents, Roy and Mabel Spencer. Roy worked for the railroad and later served as the local elected Judge, and owned and ran a small service station and grocery store. Mabel was a tall, beautiful artist from the Autry family in West Texas. Barbara’s father was an accomplished old-time fiddle player, and Barbara learned to play guitar at an early age, playing and singing the old songs along with her father. They played in the evenings for dances and on Sundays for church services.
Barbara, the consummate student, loved school and graduated Valedictorian of her class. There was no money in the family to send her to college, but fortunately, she was awarded a full-ride scholarship to attend college in Albuquerque. There, inspired by her high school English teacher, she majored in English, with the goal of becoming a school teacher. This was during WWII, and with a shortage of teachers nationwide, after just one year of college, Barbara qualified to receive an Emergency War Certificate to teach school. She accepted a job teaching in a nearby country school, teaching the first five grades. After five years of teaching there, she learned of a teacher shortage in Montana, a place to which she always dreamed of venturing. She applied for and was offered the job as teacher for the small, rural Winston School, where she would teach grades one through six. When she stepped off the Greyhound bus in Winston, with guitar in hand, she was greeted by School Board Chair, Agnes George, and moved quickly into the schoolhouse living quarters. Barbara was a special teacher who made all of her students feel and find their importance, and instantly understood their needs and what helped them to learn and enjoy school. Wherever Barbara taught, she incorporated her special musical gift of guitar and piano, teaching along with the standards, the old western songs that she learned while playing with her dad. While teaching at Winston, Barbara met a young, charismatic cowboy named, Jack Foster. She and Jack were married August 17, 1951, and four children followed, Joseph, Michael, James and Susan.
After taking off work a few years to raise her children, Barbara went back to work, first teaching two years in Toston, MT, and then the majority of her career teaching first grade in the Townsend elementary school. All of this time, Barbara was still working under her limited teaching certificate, so she began attending summer school at Western Montana College and graduated from college in 1968, the same year her oldest son, Joe graduated from the 8th grade! After thirty years of teaching, Barbara retired, but after the loss of her husband, Jack, in 1982, she went back to work, teaching several years in Clancy, MT, and finished out her 37-year teaching career in a private Christian school located in Belen, New Mexico. Again, Barbara retired, but not for long. In 1988, she decided to put her educational experience to work for the state and entered into politics, running for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The first-time political candidate won the Republican primary, but lost to her opponent in a close general election.
Private business was something that Jack and Barbara successfully partnered in, including, owning and operating the Townsend A&W, and Foster Insurance. They purchased land on the flats from the Cook Ranch sale in 1971 and developed it into many of the home units and subdivisions seen today. After Jack’s death, Barbara continued on her own with help from her children to further develop subdivided tracts for housing and commercial business.
The next chapter in Barbara’s life was to pursue a lifelong dream of writing. Her son, Mike, who inherited his passion for English and writing from his mother, replaced her typewriter with a computer and after a several lessons, her writing career began. Over the years she had eight books published, and her last book was aptly titled, “Long, Long Trail.” Barbara’s books generally combine fiction with factual history, including elements of a love story, life struggles, heroism, patriotism, excitement, and always a beautiful, young, girl. The young girl seemingly patterned after herself or own beautiful daughter, Susan, who Barbara was immensely proud of. She varied somewhat from that writing style when she was commissioned by the family of a well-known southwestern artist, Freemont Ellis, to write his biography. Barbara accurately outlined the man’s successful life and accomplishments in the book, but did it with her special flair and touch.
Barbara was known not only for her excellence as a teacher, as an author, as a successful business person, and family matriarch, but was widely recognized for many other accomplishments. She, along with friends, Zella Hunter, Pauline Webb and Helen Bucy, started the Hospital Auxiliary in the early 1980’s to help raise money for the new hospital and its special projects. She was a member of the Eastern Star, Esther Chapter #3, and a 60-year member of the United Methodist Church, where she served on all committees, served as Superintendent of Christian Education, was an occasional substitute church service leader, and sang countless times, both as a soloist accompanied with her guitar, and in the church’s beloved choir, which she sang alongside her son, Jim. She will be remembered as the beautiful songstress singing and playing to countless audiences from Montana to New Mexico, singing songs both old and new, songs of the old west, of cowboys, of fair maidens, and of most importance to her, gospel songs and hymns of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She sang with the same passion that she lived her life, and wanted to be remembered as a person who lived her life, “With a song in her heart.” “Her song, is never ending.”
Barbara is preceded in death by her husband, Roger L. (Jack) Foster; parents, Roy and Mabel Spencer; sisters Dixie Jo Spencer, Patsy Allen, Verna Nell Whitehead; brother, Roy Spencer Jr; and son-in-law Greg Ames. She is survived by her sister, Helen Spivey and husband Joe of Snyder, TX; brother, Richard Spencer and wife Bonnie of Mountainair, NM; brother-in-law Bob Allen of Friendswood, TX and sister-in-law Lula Spencer of Mountainair, NM; children, Joe Foster and wife Victoria of Montana City, Mike Foster and wife Mary of Bozeman, Jim Foster and wife Sharon of Townsend, and Susan Ames of Helena. Grandchildren, Jaclyn Haven and husband Bryan, Steven Foster, Lacey Mattson and husband Carl, Brad Foster, Sean Foster, Jack Foster and wife Demaris, Bob Foster, Patrice Grzebielski and husband Kevin, Brian Foster, Mike Olsen and wife Stacey, Nick Olsen, Rochael Vogt and husband Cory, Teddi Foster, Lance Ames and wife Jennifer, David Ames and wife Gabriella, Ashley Dalton and husband Tony, and Nicole Ames. Great Grandchildren, Jack Haven; Nolan, Evan and Landon Mattson; Orlando, Yahaira and Amaris Foster, Patrick, Logan, Tristan, and Adalynn Olsen, Miya Olsen, Conner Vogt and Paislee Foster; Alivia, Blake, Carissa and Seth Ames, and Dallin Dalton. Great-great grandchildren Jowell and Jetxiel. Barbara also had numerous nieces and nephews and their families who were all so loved and very special to her.
Viewing will be from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 7th at Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 212 Broadway in Townsend. A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 8th at the United Methodist Church, 200 N. Cedar Street in Townsend. A graveside service will follow the service at Deep Creek Cemetery. A reception will follow the graveside service in the fellowship hall of the church. Please visit www.stevensonwilke.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Barbara.