Foster, Delbert

Foster, Delbert

May 29, 1938 – Jan. 31, 2008

Delbert Taylor Foster, of Gaithersburg, died Jan. 31, 2008 at his home.

He was the beloved husband of the late Bernice Hollander Foster. They were married in Iowa May 29, 1938, and were married 67 years until her death in Nov. 2005.

Born April 21, 1914, on a wheat farm in Minneola, Kan., Delbert was the son of the late James Walter Foster and Grace Louisa Adair Foster. At the age of six, he moved to Iowa where his family raised purebred Hampshire hogs. In his youth he was an active 4-H member in Monroe County, Iowa, and served as the county’s 4-H president for a number of years.

Mr. Foster attended rural public schools in Iowa, graduating from Albia High School in 1932. He then worked his way through college doing a variety of jobs at a boarding house as well as clerking at J.C. Penney’s during holidays and Saturdays. He graduated in 1934 from Albia Junior College and from Iowa State University in 1937.

Delbert’s career in agricultural extension work with Iowa State and the University of Maryland spanned some 42 years. He started as a 4-H agent in Louisa County, Iowa, in 1936 while still in college.

After graduation, he continued as an agent in 4-H in Washington and Des Moines Counties in Iowa for one year. From 1938 through 1940, he served as a County Agricultural Extension agent for Davis County, Iowa. Then in 1941, he became the county extension director in Iowa’s Lee County and remained in this capacity until 1954. He was elected president of the Iowa extension directors in 1954.

Invited to Maryland to serve as county extension director in Montgomery County, he and his family moved to Gaithersburg in Dec. 1954. During his tenure, he was the first director to integrate the Montgomery County Agricultural Extension Service and managed a staff of 42.

In 1960, he was named the president of the Maryland Extension Agents Association, becoming one of only two agents to have been president in two states. It was during his presidency that the state association was integrated. He was a life member of the Farm Bureau as well as the Montgomery County Agricultural Center and Fair. He and his wife served as grand marshals of the 4-H parade at the Fair in 1999.

He retired as a full-time agent in 1980. He then spent the next 25 years with the Maryland Department of Agriculture as weed control coordinator in Montgomery County working with farmers and government and commercial landowners controlling Johnson grass, thistle and shattercane.

Mr. Foster received numerous awards in his career including the USDA Superior Service Award in 1954, the first National Pride Award in 1976 for pride in daily efforts, the National Grassland Award in 1954 from the National Fertilizer Association, the USDA National County Agent Award in 1949, and the National Award for Management of County Office in 1977. He was the author of a variety of articles that appeared in such magazines as Successful Farm, USDA Extension Review, National Fertilizer, and Catholic Rural Life, as well as others.

He and his wife were named the Distinguished Citizens of Year for the City of Gaithersburg in 1993 for their efforts in mobilizing the city to raise funds to build a new home for a family following Hurricane Andrew. In 2004, the Fosters were given Maryland Senior Citizen’s Hall of Fame highest honor when they were presented with the GERI Award. This award is the geriatric “Nobel Prize” for extraordinary humanitarian community service by citizens over 60 years of age.

Delbert was a member of Epworth United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg where he served as a member of the administrative board, was a Sunday school teacher, the superintendent of the Church School, chairman of the pastoral relations committee, and a delegate to the District Conference and Council of Ministries.

Mr. Foster was active in the Lions Club. He was a charter member of the Donnellson, Iowa, Lions Club in 1952 and was a member of the Laytonsville Lions, serving as its president in 1978-1979. He became the Laytonsville Club’s only life member in 1996 and a Melvin Jones Award winner in 1997-1998. He received a notation from the international president for 55 years of Lionism, and was the only living charter member of the Donnellson, Iowa, Lions Club. He was also a member for over 50 years of the George Washington Masonic Lodge and the Eastern Star.

The Fosters were avid world travelers, having visited over 60 countries as well as all the states in the United States.

Delbert was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Bernice; his only child, Christina Louisa Edwards; and one brother, Hoyle Adair Foster.

He is survived by his son-in-law, Richard C. Edwards; grandson, Richard Edwards and wife, Lynda; great-granddaughter, Kristina; and great grandson, Devin, all of New Jersey; as well as a brother, James Samuel Foster of Grand Island, Nebraska.

The Fosters established an endowment scholarship at Iowa Wesleyan College which is awarded each year to worthy students in need of financial assistance. Thirty-four students have graduated from the college with the Fosters’ assistance.

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