by Pat Edwards
I never knew Thelma Foster well, but I’ve always had a deep respect for her work ethic and her love of family. I first met Thelma when she was the postmistress of the Lorane Post Office. She had taken over the position after her husband Harold passed away in 1968. The Lorane Post Office had been run by the Foster family since Harold’s uncle, Roy Foster, became postmaster in 1912. Harold took over in 1940 and ran it until his death. When Thelma sold the Foster Store – which housed the post office – to Joseph and Summer Allman in 1975, she built the small “A-frame” building that has served as the Lorane Post Office since. Thelma distributed mail and continued as a fixture in the daily lives of the Lorane residents who made a daily trek to pick up their mail. She was a well-respected member of her community and an obviously astute businesswoman.
Eventually, when Thelma decided it was time for her to retire, her daughter, Kathy Ledgerwood, carried on the postal duties that had become the family tradition – she, too, ran the post office for several years.
Thelma played another small part in Lorane’s history, too. When the Lorane High School was closed in 1958 following the consolidation of the Lorane School District with the Crow-Applegate School District, it was Thelma who offered the winning bid for the school property. Her bid of $2,010.53 bought the land with the provision that she have the school building demolished within one year’s time. Once the land was cleared, Thelma moved her home onto the site from where it sat on Territorial Road.
After Thelma retired, I saw little of her, but had the pleasure of watching her granddaughters, Jamie and Jenny, grow from toddlers, to the wonderful young women that they have become. I am especially close to Jamie, who came to work for me at the University of Oregon while she studied for her bachelor’s degree and, eventually, her teaching degree. I don’t know what I ever would have done without Jamie’s help and it is obvious that she inherited her grandmother’s work ethic. I was always able to count on Jamie to do whatever needed to be done and she worked independently, without supervision, allowing me to do my own work without worrying about hers. I have always considered Jamie as one of my own very special people.
As Thelma entered her later years, Jamie and Jenny helped their mother and their Uncle Brian look after Thelma. They checked in on her regularly, staying with her some nights if needed, cooking meals and providing her with the love and attention that she adored. Thelma was always independent and enjoyed living in her snug home on the hill overlooking the former Foster Store and stayed there until her health would no longer allow her to live on her own.
Thelma obviously was very close to her family. I remember watching another of her granddaughters, Kristen, playing basketball for Crow Middle School. Her Aunt Jenny was the coach for the team. Thelma loved coming to the games to watch Kristen play and Jenny coach. Her bent and frail body was supported by either a daughter or granddaughter at her side, as she slowly entered the gymnasium. Thelma sat on those hard wooden bleachers throughout each of those games and cheered with the best of us. Whenever I stopped by to say “hello,” she always had a big grin on her face and her expression registered recognition.
Thelma was a part of Lorane’s history since her marriage to Harold on November 3, 1951. There are few of her generation left. She was one of the last. Those special days of slower-paced living and a close-knit community are gone. The fast-pace of today’s world has left those days behind, but our memories of those who came before us will never die as long as we are willing to cherish their memories and their accomplishments, knowing that our lives are so much better for them.
May you rest in peace, Thelma!