A mission to Saipan to pickup wounded from the battle of Iwo Jima, piloting home a plane filled to the brim with American prisoners of war at the end of WWII and a passion to preserve and record the past— these are just a few snapshots in the life of Frank Foster Jr. When asked about all of this and more, Foster, with a few tears in his eyes, simply says, “I’ve done alright.”
On July 5th, with many friends and family members gathered around him, Foster received the Boston Post Cane designating him as the oldest resident of Machiasport. Selectman Brian Smith had the privilege of presenting Foster with the cane. “This cane is presented to the oldest living person in our town, and I am honored to present it on this day to Frank,” said Smith. “Hopefully he keeps it for another 20 years.” Cora Quimby previously had the honor of being the oldest resident in Machiasport until her passing at the age of 109 in 2018.
Foster was born on April 23,1921, in the house he calls home today. A life long bachelor, he and his sister, Evelyn (Evie), age 92, who married a WWII veteran and has three children, sat together surrounded by friends and family members. As a member of the “greatest generation” Foster served as a Navy pilot flying PB2Y’s and PB4Y’s which were two and four engine aircraft— essentially a “flying boat”— used by the U.S. Navy to drop payloads of supplies and armaments, as well as transport soldiers into and out of combat zones. Before that, Foster attended Washington Academy and then left the area to pursue college and work, but instead entered the war effort by enlisting shortly after Pearl Harbor in early 1942.
During the war, Foster flew routes from Saipan to Honolulu and had the privilege of returning wounded soldiers and prisoners of war stateside, giving many their first glimpse, via flyby, of the Golden Gate Bridge. After the war, Foster attended the University of Maine, graduating with a degree in economics in 1946. He then worked for BF Goodrich at their office in the Philippines, where he lived and worked for over 30 years. Foster returned to his home in Machiasport in 1982.
The Boston Post Cane started in 1909 when Edwin Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper had 700 ebony wood canes made, each adorned with a 14-carat gold head, two inches in length, inscribed with the words: “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) — To Be Transmitted”. The canes were then sent to 700 small towns throughout New England where it was then presented to the oldest person in that town. The cane was to be kept in their possession and, upon death, be handed down to the next oldest person in that community. Today, this tradition continues in at least 500 of the original towns.
Smith says the town plans on displaying the cane at the town office, and Foster will be given a parchment of recognition signifying his designation as a Boston Post Cane recipient for Machiasport. The Machiasport Historical Society (MHS), which Foster helped found, will have another celebration in honor of his life on Saturday, July 27, when the society has its annual summer open house. “We will have a table recognizing Frank’s accomplishments and a cake with his picture on it to celebrate and enjoy throughout the day,” says MHS President and friend Barbara Malloy. “Frank has done so much for Machiasport. His influence on our slice of life will be here for many years to come.”
Two things Foster loves most are history and world travel. No matter the place he happens to be, Foster learns about the people he is with and about their heritage. From the Phillipines, to Hong Kong and Singapore, North and South America, even traveling around Cape Horn with his sister Evie, Foster cares about people and place. To this day, he carries a small wooden cross he took with him when he left Machiasport in 1938. The cross and its owner have been to war, college, climbed the business ladder, traveled the globe together and are now home in Machiasport.
With his passion for history, the presentation of the cane itself was of considerable interest to Foster. Throughout his life he has been credited in many books and periodicals regarding Machiasport and the surrounding area. Foster has researched and written extensively while also preserving historical photographs and records of the area, many of which make up a bulk of the archival material of the historical society. And, if that is not enough, he is also a direct descendant of Benjamin Foster, who together with Jeremiah O’Brien and others took on the British in the Battle of the Margaretta in June 1775.
“We are very excited and thankful for Frank,” said one family member. “He deserves this because in our eyes, he is Machiasport.” Watching a young child weave through a room full of people there is no doubt Foster was in his element, surrounded by family and holding a token of appreciation from a town that means everything to him. As one standing in that crowded room, watching as Foster sat reading the inscription on the gold finial of the cane, one can’t help but to think about all this man has accomplished.
We all aspire to live a full life, and Foster is doing just that. A life of service to country, to a community and its past, and to his family is quite a legacy to eventually leave behind. Seeing Foster sit there in his chair, with a slight smile, tells one he is not yet finished.