Walter Leonard Foster, 90, a nearly 60-year icon of the Methow Valley, has been reunited with his wife of 70 years, Nella. He was born April 23, 1928, in Onalaska, Washington, as the youngest son of the seven children of Robert L. and Eunice A. Foster. His only living sibling, John Milton Foster, 91, passed away the same day as Walt, Oct. 15, 2018.
Walt’s legacy of caring, generosity and hard work spread from his early years in Seattle to Wenatchee and then to Mazama. His devotion to the Methow began in 1961 when he purchased the Stewart Homestead along Goat Creek Road. Though raised a city slicker, Walt joined real cowboys and cattleman to roam the valley. He shared many stories repeatedly of his pack and hunting trips into the Pasayten Wilderness and Gardner Meadows. Walt always said he was born to be a farmer, and his beautiful alfalfa fields reflected that.
He was proud that the original ranch house was the first in the valley to have electricity, indoor plumbing and a unique octagonal designed barn, often featured in the Seattle newspapers. All the distinctive buildings which Walt wanted to preserve were constructed from trees milled on the property. The barn burned down in April 1969, with the house to burn to the ground in December 1980. Without those landmarks, Walt and Nella were devastated, but they continued to enjoy life’s blessings and finally retired to Mazama in 1993.
He was a concrete guy from his early 30s. He moved his business from Seattle to eastern Washington when he was awarded the concrete contract for the new Wenatchee High School in 1970. Walt owned Columbia Concrete in Wenatchee, Quincy, Ephrata, Okanogan, Republic, and Cascade Concrete in Winthrop. He was always eager to share his knowledge of the industry, volunteering to lay many foundations, driveways and courts throughout the Wenatchee, Okanogan and Methow valleys. Driving mixer trucks was not his forte. In Wenatchee, Walt made the newspaper when he drove a mixer truck over the top of a parked car.
He loved family, God, country, and nearly everyone he met. Walt was called “Gramp” by his three grandchildren, Tricia, Todd and Trina, and later “Bop” by his three great-grandchildren, Wyatt, Nella Mae and Lilly. He blessed them all with affection, protection, travel adventures, and a menagerie of animals. Walt welcomed Jason Kadah to his family when he walked Katrina down the aisle for a Mexican Riviera cruise wedding in 2006. His only child, Carol, lived and cared for him and her mother in their older years. He lived his life according to high principles, often quoting to his daughter the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. Fairness, forgiveness, and perseverance labeled who Walt was.
He was known for his jokes, teasing, stories, stubbornness and old trucks. His favorite truck, a 1928 Model A flatbed Ford, won him the Best Working Truck honor at the Winthrop Antique Auto Rally. The Foster Christmas parties were a tradition he celebrated at the Mazama Community Club with friends and neighbors. One of his favorite things to do was to play Santa for Little Star Montessori School. Nella and Walt’s door was always open and ready to host one or 100 guests. He simply loved people.
You will find his spirit in the mountains, rivers and creeks, pine trees, and land he so treasured. The lake on his ranch was a crowning achievement he left behind. He was the first landowner in the valley to donate land to build the Methow Valley Trail system. Over 3 miles of trails crossed his ranch. The Tawlkes-Foster Suspension Bridge spanning the Methow River stands to honor Walt and his dear friend. Walt’s excitement rekindled often when he watched the U.S. Forest Service deploy equipment and personnel from his fields and helicopters dip water from his lake. Although he did not ski or bike the trails himself, he loved to watch those who did. Sharing what he had with others was a commitment from which Walt never wavered or regretted.
Will he be missed? A resounding yes: Walt Foster’s name, legacy, and spirit will be forever etched in the Methow Valley and will remind us all of what truly matters in life.
Private family services for Walter will be held at St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church in Twisp. A public memorial gathering that everyone is invited to attend will be at the Winthrop Barn at 11 a.m. on Nov. 4. Precht-Harrison-Nearents Chapel is caring for the arrangements.