Have you ever met an oral historian who had enough adventures to tell as though he were a hundred men? Imagine tales of humor, suspense, sorrow and hard work with all the details to bring them to life. Woven through many would be Ronnie’s work with the Master. His faith carried him through a life well lived until his passing on August 20, 2021.
Ronald Wayne Foster, Sr. was born just across the state line in Corinth, MS on April 11, 1956, the sixth son of Cecil and Hildred Foster. His twin brother, Donald, and brothers Frank (Linda) and James Ray (MIA-Vietnam) preceded him in death along with his mother, father and first wife, Martha Jane.
He told many stories about growing up in Pocahontas, TN near his grandparents, the Kimbrel’s, and the cotton farm where he and Donald were left with the women as toddlers to pick cotton since they were too young to go with the men and work. From this early age, he recalled songs the women sang while working like: “It’ll be different the next time you come, just wait and see. You’ve got a lot of lonely children and one of them is me…” Songs and stories were an integral component of Ronnie’s understanding of life. He incorporated them with lessons learned from people like his uncle, G.L. Kimbrel, his neighbor, Mr. Hollingsworth and Pearl Cohn GED teacher, Mr. Buford T. Drake. Ronnie didn’t just listen to their words; he heard and heeded the advice his mentors gave him.
From the cotton fields to sorting coal and working at a gas station and car repair in Old Hickory, Ronnie’s life was filled more with work than with play. He joined the Navy at age 17 just after marrying M.J. He served on the USS Canisteo A099 in Vietnam and in the NATO Alliance in Naples, Italy as the war ended. He was a BT3 boiler technician and said that jumpstarted his career for life. Ronnie was as proud of his Engineering E award as he was for being recognized as a morale booster on the ship. One day the ship’s chaplain said to Ronnie, “I can help you with that.” He saw something in Ronnie. A little time was needed to sort through it, then Ronnie accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. He told how he could feel the change in himself. While in the Navy he obtained a PQS Certification and a certificate from the Boiler water and Feed water Chemistry School.
Following his time in the service, Ronnie received a certificate from Nashville Tech for Basic Boiler Operation. He began working for TVA where he also obtained a Boiler Maker Journeyman Certificate and Associates of Science degree from the Department of Trades and Labor in 1979. As a TVA boiler technician, he worked for weeks or months at a time in various parts of the U.S.
Ronnie and M.J. raised their children on Anthony Street in Old Hickory, TN. They were very active in their church community as well as the children’s activities. All four children are musically talented and played in their high school bands. He is survived by Ron Jr. (Lisa), James Taylor (Rebecca), Sarah Forbes (David) and Elizabeth Foster. There are many grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren.
After his time with TVA, he became employed by Vought Aircraft Industries for most of his career. During one long layoff period, he worked at Tennessee Christian Medical Center in Madison, TN. As supervisor of the boiler operations, there were challenges and opportunities to make quantifiable differences in the organizations bottom line. He loved that position. At one point, he saved the company one third of their gas cost from the repairs he made. He showed them how to use equipment efficiently and eliminate chemicals they were using. Back at Vought, currently known as Triumph Industries, he advanced and worked in almost every department and retired as a chief aircraft inspector. He was active in the Central Labor Council in Nashville, TN too. For many years, Ronnie also had a refrigeration and HVAC business during his aircraft days; remember – more work than play.
Ronnie is survived by his two brothers, Steven (Berta) and Everette (Ann) as well as three half-sisters. M.J. passed away and left Ronnie devastated and wondering how he would pick up the pieces after their 42-year marriage, but the Lord had a plan. A friend from work led him to warm and inviting congregation of believers for a healing period. Then Ronnie prayed for the Lord to send him someone and in a roundabout modern way, he met Susan. After months of meeting for coffee at Panera, they had their first date to celebrate Ronnie’s retirement at age 60. She led him to another church community where he was fully embraced. He volunteered with Room in the Inn, Christian Community Services, Inc. and Edge Venture. Ronnie quickly immersed himself in his new life. He and Susan Adamson married in September 2020, amongst the pine trees with a few friends. David the Dog, a.k.a. King David, the little 5-pound Chihuahua was a constant companion and part of Ronnie’s package deal. He won the hearts of many and followed Ronnie daily until he passed in December of 2020.
Ronnie was incredibly industrious, quick witted, extremely intelligent and loved people. The oral historian could entertain friends and family for hours. It seemed that his mission was to be a constant encourager. Every day he would take time to think how he could lift someone else and make their day a little brighter. Through his last days, he was telling stories, sharing his knowledge and being the Light the Lord wanted him to be. He spoke boldly about his faith and made Bible stories come to life as he applied them to current situations.
A family service with military honors will be held at the Nashville National Cemetery. A celebration of Ronnie’s remarkable life will be held later. If anyone desires to remember Ronnie with a donation, we offer these options: EdgeVenture.org and LLS.org.