Roger Foster was a determined man with a plan and a certain way he wanted to do things.
For their 25th anniversary in 2017, the Fosters went on a road trip. Julie Foster, his wife, asked one of the priests from their church (Sacred Heart Catholic Church) to come to the house and give them a travel blessing before they left.
Foster had it in his mind what time he wanted to leave, and the priest was running late.
They left on time without the blessing. Several hours into their trip, they got a flat tire. Soon after that, a rock hit their windshield and it cracked. Not long after that, they were stopped on the highway waiting for an accident to be cleared from the roads.
Roger wished they had left just a little later and got the road trip blessing, Julie said.
Foster received his final blessing on Aug. 3, when there was not an empty seat in Sacred Heart Catholic Church for his funeral.
Foster battled stage four lung cancer for over a year until he was put on hospice care. He passed away on July 31.
He served on the city council before being sworn in as Mayor of Crete in December 2010. He served Crete in that position ever since, being reelected in 2014 and 2018.
Foster got into government after a tragic accident at Tuxedo Park claimed his daughter Alexa’s life.
“It (interest in government) all started right after Alexa passed beginning with ‘The Alexa Check.’ Then he decided that he would make a bigger difference being a part of the government,” his family said.
After learning that there was no mandatory state inspections of small public buildings, like the restroom his daughter was in when a block wall collapsed on her, Foster went to the Nebraska State Legislature to propose “The Alexa Check,” which would encourage reporting of dangers in public places and anything that looked unsafe.
“The Alexa Check” was approved in May 2007 as a state law that would hold cities, counties and other public entities accountable for making sure their buildings and equipment are intact with no potential danger and preventing accidents that could happen in public parks or buildings.
“The thing that always resonated with me about Roger, he chose the most honorable and impactful path after Alexa’s tragic accident that I could never even imagine doing” Foster’s sister-in-law Debbie Foster said. “I told someone yesterday that he had so many blessings in his life, and the hand of cards he was dealt was not the best, but he played them very, very well.”
“I admire him and his family so much. Instead of being very bitter and looking to assign blame, they wanted to be proactive and see about trying to prevent things like this from happening to anybody else,“ Crete City Administrator Tom Ourada said.
Foster created the city administrator position for Crete in 2013 and appointed Ourada to it. Ourada oversees the department heads and worked closely with Foster to relay information.
Ourada and Foster shared many phone calls, emails and conversations in their time working together about ideas to improve the city.
“The record was seven times (phone calls) in one day. Roger was a little unique in that he would call me anywhere from six in the morning to 10 at night,” Ourada said.
Foster pushed to bring back historical pieces to the community and make a positive impact.
“One of the last things he wanted to see happen was the lion head,” Ourada said.
The fiberglass lion water fountain was also Foster’s idea to bring back to Crete City Park. Foster wanted to recreate the lion head fountain that had been in the park back in 1980. The new one was finished in early July of this year.
“It was something he thought the children would enjoy,” Ourada said.
Foster also wanted a tribute to veterans, but not a memorial, a monument. They found one in Lincoln to base the Veteran Recognition Monument in Crete City Park off of. It includes red bricks engraved with names, branches of service and dates and war or conflicts veterans have served in.
Foster was keen on the idea of a new library being built for Crete, Ourada said, but was not content with it just being a library. He wanted it to have a positive impact on the community and address community needs.
The library will now have a multi-purpose community space and serve as a storm shelter, as well as have a park by it.
“He didn’t stop thinking about the community, where as some people may only think about it for, you could say ‘hours a month.’ He wasn’t that person. His mind didn’t shut off as far as the community went. He was always thinking about doing this or doing that and how we could make things better,” Ourada said.
Foster was focused on team effort and worked closely with the city council.
“Roger was very easy to work with. He was one that would call me with thoughts and ideas of things he wanted to do and bounce things past me to see what my thoughts were,” City Council President Dave Bauer said.
Foster was not only dedicated to the community, but also his family.
Foster’s sister Sally Danekas said he kept in great contact with his family and made sure to call or stop by frequently.
His family remembers Foster as goofy, understanding, courageous, strong, loving, knowledgeable, whitty and dedicated.
“Uncle Roger the Great,” as his nieces and nephews called him, loved cherry kolaches and would stick his thumb in them so no one else would eat them. He also always talked like Donald Duck.
He loved playing golf, watching sports, specifically Mets baseball, Bears football and Crete High, Doane University and Nebraska teams.
Foster was personable. Bauer said that was one thing that made him a good mayor. His family included that his personability started at a young age.
“Roger was 4 and wandered away from home and his mother sent the siblings out on bikes to look for him,” the family said. “He ended up at Agnus Dorcey’s house two blocks away, where he went up to her door and said, ‘Hello, my name is Roger Foster. I’m lost.’ He went in for milk and cookies and after that he made several trips back to her house for milk and cookies.”
Foster impacted so many people, from his daughter’s friends, who he guided like his own daughter, to the community he served.
“Everybody says all these glowing things about somebody when they’ve passed. You don’t have to invent things about him because he lived that,” Ourada said.