Annie Clara Atkins Foster had a passion for children.
She died April 30, 2012. She was 83.
Foster was born on April 25, 1924, to Grace Shorter and Lawrence Sidney Atkins in Eufaula, Barbour County, Ala. She was the second of three daughters.
She enjoyed a happy childhood and graduated from Van Buren High School of Eufaula in 1943. She attended Alabama State Teacher’s College in Montgomery, Ala., for two years, then joined her mother in Philadelphia who had relocated several years earlier.
She studied cosmetology at Apex College in South Philadelphia becoming a licensed hair stylist. She and a handsome WWII soldier, Joseph Tenille Foster Sr. from her hometown, eloped to Baltimore, Md., and in 1944 they were married in a Victorian style wedding chapel. They resided in West Philadelphia. The Fosters later welcomed their son, Joseph Jr., at the Osteopathic Hospital (now called PCOM) which was then located at 48th & Spruce streets.
Two years later, Foster returned to work at Queen Casuals of NYC on North Broad Street in Philadelphia as an order picker in their ladies sportswear division. She was employed there for more than 30 years, retiring as a customer service manager. She retired at age 62, overcoming several health challenges.
Foster became a full-time community worker, volunteer and grandmother. She worked tirelessly to keep standards high in her neighborhood, helping to organize the 100 block of North 57th Street Block Club.
Her spiritual journey began early in her life. She joined St. John AME Church of Eufaula, Ala. St. John was the church home of her mother, Grace and grandmother, Annie Shorter.
After moving to Philadelphia, Foster and her mother joined Wesley AME Zion Church in South Philadelphia. When her mother passed in 1984, she moved her membership to St. Matthew AME Church, where she served as an usher and worked with the “clothes closet.” She tirelessly supported the Greeter’s Club and Women’s Ministry activities, mentoring younger women in the church and witnessing to family, friends and neighbors who did not have a church home.
Foster was the unofficial godmother for old and young children in her neighborhood. Her son’s friends became her kids too. His school chums, neighborhood playmates, frat brothers and professional colleagues were always in and out of her house. Even after her son married and moved out, his friends continue to stop by just to check on “Mom Foster.”
Foster served on the community board of Harambee Institute, served as an election poll worker and on the neighborhood watch team. She had a spare key for most of the longtime residents on her block. She took in packages and other deliveries for her neighbors, and her porch was “the” meeting place from May to October.
Her family said “Miss Ann” was the life of the party. She also enjoyed time alone reading romance novels and the Bible, watching television and crocheting. She was a talented seamstress and excelled in arts and crafts.
Foster was preceded in death by her sisters, Mildred Edith Atkins Morrell and Ida Belle Atkins.
She is survived by her son, Joseph Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth Foster; her niece and caregiver, Jacquelyn Morrell; two grandsons, Jabari K. Foster (Jamillah) and Jamar Williams; and other relatives and friends.
Services were held May 4 at St. Matthew AME Church, 215 North 57th Street. Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.