Jesuit Brother William J. Foster died on Sept. 2, 2017, at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 87 years old.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 2, 1929, Br. Foster’s schooling was interrupted because of struggles with poor health in his youth. He completed primary school and some years of technical training in Omaha before entering the Society at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, Missouri on March 4, 1956. After pronouncing his first vows as a Jesuit brother on March 7, 1958, he spent several years on the staff of the Wisconsin Province Jesuit Novitiate (in Oshkosh and St. Bonifacius) and five years serving the Marquette University Jesuit Community. Br. Foster was called to final vows on August 15, 1967, after tertianship and shortly after he was assigned to Holy Rosary Mission in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
Br. Foster ministered at Holy Rosary for forty-seven years, from 1966 to 2013. He worked hard all his Jesuit life. He served both Holy Rosary Mission and the Jesuit Community in many capacities — as a plumber, electrician, locksmith, carpenter, and general maintenance worker. For fifteen years he was Holy Rosary’s Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. A quiet, gentle, steady man, he remained calm no matter what emergencies arose – in a place where emergencies were common. Br. Foster was also extremely perceptive as he surveyed the passing scene on the Pine Ridge Reservation and within the Society of Jesus. Br. Foster won the respect and affection of generations of the Lakota students and staff he dedicated his life to serving. Many still remember him as the person who prepared the simple wooden crosses used to mark the graves of their departed relatives. He is remembered with special affection by the Jesuits with whom he lived and shared ministry. And somehow, as the years passed, Br. Foster become a person whom others recognized as a holy man.
In 2013 declining health led to Br. Foster’s moving to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community, where he lived peacefully until his death.