Betty Foster joined this congregation sometime in the mid 1970's, with her husband Bob and two young children, John and Heather. A third child, Rob, came later. She was a strong presence here, serving on lots of committees as well in the religious education program, but remembered most from those years for the dinners and parties she tirelessly organized, cooked and decorated for, creatively planned activities for, and cleaned up after. She was a party animal.
Her work outside the home at that time was as a childbirth educator, but she was to set that aside when, in 1982, she decided to enter seminary, preparing for the Unitarian Universalist ministry. She graduated in 1987 from Harvard Divinity School and was ordained at the Unitarian Universalist church in Carlisle, MA, where she had done her student internship. And then she returned to school, studying for a doctorate in pastoral psychology.
She was near the end of those studies when, at age 50, she suffered a severe stroke from which she never recovered. Despite strenuous efforts at physical and speech therapy, she was never to walk again and regained only a little of her ability to speak. For a woman who was so smart and so articulate this was an enormous loss, but she triumphed over it.
Betty was wise and compassionate, funny and brave. Admirable as she was before her stroke, though, it was through the long stretch of years following that tragedy that her spirit and her strength shone most brightly. Damaged as her body was, not a scintilla of her intellect, her wit, her hope or her passion, was diminished. And she continued to share her gifts generously.
This congregation, in its considerable wisdom, welcomed Betty as a Ministerial Associate. It was not just an honorary title. She contributed often to worship services and other celebrations, writing reflections and meditations. In an Easter sermon in 1999 she wrote,
"Our knowing is limited. Our spirits are not unfailingly compassionate and forgiving. Our bodies will die. Our lives will end. This imperfect existence is as good as it gets. What we need . . . to cherish deeply is that this is enough. . . .This is as good as it gets, this life that we know. We can't be more than we are. The danger lies in being less than we are, in diminishing our being by doing what others want us to do or to be, instead of what our inner voice calls us to."
She remained a spiritual voice and presence among us and was a faithful source of support to many members of the congregation, as well as to the ministers. But mostly, as our colleague Rev. Elaine Bomford expressed it, "Her life was her ministry." The grace and courage with which she moved through these last 24 years were an inspiration, an embodiment of hope.
After the death of her husband in 2013 Betty moved to Gorham House in Gorham, ME to be near her daughter and her family. She stayed active there participating in many activities including equestrian therapy. She died on March 3 on the coast of Maine, with the winds and waters whipping up a storm.
In her obituary it is written, "Betty will be remembered as an inspirational, supportive, caring, and fun-loving individual; someone who taught you to slow down and enjoy life. She loved to throw a dinner party, spoil her grandkids and cheer on the Patriots and Red Sox. She would feed you even if you weren't hungry . . . (and) tested the limits of space and time by filling her refrigerator with more than it could ever possibly hold."
A memorial service will be held on Monday, March 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm at the Gorham House, 50 New Portland Road, Gorham, Maine. In lieu of flowers please donate to Gorham House Activity Fund.
A Celebration of Her Life will be held here at UUCM later this spring.
Rev. Jeanne Nieuwejaar, Minister Emerita