A capacity crowd gathered at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center on Oct. 6. It was a night of celebration marking the 50th wedding anniversary of Valdosta’s Henry “Hank” and Earlene Foster.
The elegant affair was planned and coordinated by the Foster children: Valerie McCauley of Woodbridge, Va., an employee at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; Charles Foster of Little Rock, Ark., retired U.S. Army veteran and businessman; Henry Foster Jr. of Lawton, Okla., retired U.S. Army veteran and businessman; and Anthony Foster of Temecula, Calif., retired U.S. Army veteran and businessman.
A host of family and friends from several states were also in attendance. Most grew up in the Tom Town section of Valdosta. They recounted events of their formative Tom Town years of the 1950s and ’60s. Hank’s sister, Leila, recalled that Valdosta had a mass transit system in the ’50s.
“We could sometimes ride free on Sundays,” she said.
Some took turns roasting Hank for his frugality in a good-natured way. Sam Newton, now residing in New York, reminded Hank that “you still owe me money.” He referenced that he had sung in Hank’s first R&B band. They were a fledgling group of teens with poorly functioning pawn shop instruments.
Mack Rose chimed in to say, “We went on the road early. We went as far away as Hahira and played big venues like tobacco warehouses.”
The Hank Foster Band’s fortune grew over the years. It merged and morphed into a successful group known as Robert Petersen and the House Wreckers. They toured most of the Southeastern U.S.
While playing an event in Perry, Fla., Hank met Earlene Abercrombie who became Mrs. Foster. Hank gave up the life of a touring musician in 1964. He joined the staff of the Valdosta County Club and was a “valued and beloved employee,” retiring in 2007.
Hank’s wife, Earlene, from her first entry into the Valdosta community “earned a place of endearment and respect.” Known for her “unbounded generosity,” she is described as a friend and mentor to many, a faithful “rock,” in her church, a “Proverbs mother and wife, unfailing in her duty.” She is universally praised for her “uncommonly good” cooking.
Among the many attendees were Valdosta Mayor John Gayle and Lowndes County Commissioner Joyce Evans.
People were brought to their feet by The Sharper Singers who performed joyous praise music.
The closing highlight of the evening was the reading of a letter of congratulations from President Barrack Obama. It read in part, “… the joys and challenges of your fifty years together (are) an inspiration to us all.”