Foster Preservation Society

Preservation Society "Citizen of the Year" Award


Citizen of the Year Award - 2017

Ada Farrell was named "Citizen of the Year for 2016 by the Foster Preservation Society.  This year the honor was bestowed on a non-resident who has become one of the hardest workers in the organization, Ada Farrell. Ada had originally approached us at Old Home Days in 2012 and asked if we knew anything about her father’s family in Foster, the Coles.

Before we go further into this a little about Ada. After her husband’s passing in 1971, Ada was put in the position of having to raise her family, Daniel, Richard and Diane and be the sole bread winner. She would become a Purchasing Agent at the Community College from which she retired in 1993. She was also the primary care giver for her aging cousin who was a veteran and was confined to a nursing home

Ada and her daughter, Diane, became interested in their family history as a result of having watched the Roots mini-series on television. She subsequently joined a number of historical and genealogical organizations to further this interest.


When Ada asked about the Coles in Foster, she knew that her family had settled here from Massachusetts in the mid 1700s. She could recall as a child attending the funeral of her grandfather in Foster but was unclear as to the location of the cemetery. George Newman, whose mother was a Cole and myself, my 4G Grandmother was Martha Cole wife of Elder John Hammond, immediately got into a conversation with her and this resulted in Ada joining the Society.


Since becoming a member, Ada has been active in the Archiving Group and serves on the Board of Directors as our Director of Grants and Acquisitions. She has been active with the cemetery archiving and clean ups. At 85 (I cringe at revealing her age because she certainly doesn’t show it) she out paces many of us who have fewer years. She has been the prime mover in securing most of the grants that we have gotten over the last 3 years.

For these and many more contributiuons, the Foster Preservation Society recognizes Ada Farrell as our 2017 Citizen of the Year.  Congratulations Ada!


Citizen(s) of the Year Award - 2016

Ted Hopkins and Tom Angell were named "Citizens of the Year" for 2016 by the Foster Preservation Society.


Every year the Society tries to select a citizen from Foster who has contributed to preserving the heritage of the community.  This may be through restoration or preservation of structures or sites which reflect the history of the town, or it may be through efforts to record and document some person or event that is important to the stories that when woven together form the tapestry depicting the past of this community we call home.

It is seldom an easy choice because this town has been blessed with many people who through their efforts have made Foster a gem in western Rhode Island.  This year has seen the culmination of the restoration of the historic Quaker Meeting House that is now the Mount Vernon Chapel.  A building that was severely damaged when it was accidentally struck by a vehicle and driven off of its foundation.  There had been a great deal of concern regarding the ability to save the structure, but through the hard work of the parishioners it has been restored. Not only was it returned to its existing state but with love and attention to detail, it was returned to its 18th century appearance. In the process of reconstruction, when the inner walls were stripped, the original window and door locations were found in the original framing and they were then returned to their original position.  A fine example and still a work in progress.


The past year also witnessed the installation of a new World War II Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the historic Eddy Building.  This began as a wish by the few remaining veterans to honor their brothers who left as boys to try to bring order and justice to a world torn by a conflict, the magnitude of which had never been witnessed. Some didn’t return, but of those who did, they were no longer the same farm boys who had left.  The world had changed and they had changed.  A thank you is too little for what they endured and the price they paid. Finally, the few remaining, had the opportunity to see a fitting memorial placed, in a prominent place, in the center of the community from which they had departed 70 years before.  The names, a symbolic gathering of a generation, now belonging to the history of the town.  The work that went into completing this project is worthy of an award.


These were only two projects that were considered in this year’s selection.  The project that ultimately involved this year’s recipients was the restoration of the historic Clayville Cemetery.  Unlike other large cemeteries in town, the Clayville Cemetery was never owned by an individual or a corporate entity.  It was an assemblage of small lots purchased from a local farmer to serve as the final resting place for the families who lived in the mill village and not owning farms, didn’t have family burial lots.  No entity was responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery. A number of lots had provided for perpetual care from the town, but most had not.  The cemetery had been cleaned by members of the adjoining church many years ago but there was such thick regrowth of trees and shrubbery that it was nearly impossible to find the stones.


The cemetery would likely have not been cleared now except for a school in Providence, the Met School, who was seeking a service project for their students who required a project in order to graduate.  They contacted the State Historic Cemetery Commission to ask if there might be any cemeteries that needed raking and cleaning.  A call from the Commission to our Society led to the Clayville Cemetery being identified as in need of cleaning.  In the end the school sent busloads of students five times over a two-year span to complete the cleanup.  However, even with the efforts of the students and volunteers from the Society, this project would have failed except for the exceptional efforts of two local residents.  Neither, by the way, from Foster.  Ted Hopkins and Tom Angell, of Scituate, showed up the first day with chainsaws and a brush cutter and began to cut away the years of growth so that the students could cart it away and pile it for later disposal.  They returned time and again to clear more ground so that the students could continue the cleaning.  Finally, on a rainy day, at the end of the second year, they stood out in the weather on a Sunday and burned the brush that was piled.  This completed the clearing of the cemetery.  The restoration of the stones will be another chapter in the story.


The Foster Preservation Society recognizes Ted Hopkins and Tom Angell as their 2016 Citizens of the Year.  Our thanks and gratitude go to both men.  Congratulations!


Citizen of the Year Award - 2015


Janet White was named "Citizen of the Year" for 2015 by the Foster Preservation Society.


When we think of Janet, words that come to mind are "energetic", "goal-oriented" and "achiever".  No matter what task was laid before her, the end result was usually a success.  She is someone who could be counted on to "get the job done".


Janet became a member of the Foster Preservation Society many years ago, serving on the Board of Directors for most of those years. She was always part of, if not Chairperson of, (which usually was the case), the Fundraising Committee and the Program Committee.  Her suggestions for a fundraising event would most likely turn in to a successful venture. Some of these events were the: Barn Tours, Garden Tours, Plant Sales, Bus Trips, Town House Tiles, Cabot Cheese Wheels sold at Old Home Days (how could we have known that this would become so popular!) and The Jerimoth Hill T-shirts (travelers far and wide have purchased these T-shirts!).


Janet participated in the School Tour, which became an annual event of bringing the children from Paine School to Foster Center for a day of educating them about the richness of Foster’s past.  She participated in the member’s Breakfast Meeting, which is always well attended.  She is part of the Archiving Committee and the Cemetery Committee, known as the Wednesday and Thursday groups.  She has been active in the acquisition of historic items.


Residing in an historic home in Foster, she has had first-hand knowledge of what it means to preserve the past while conforming to modern times.  She, along with her husband Dick, maintained the homestead and beautiful gardens that surround it.  After Dick’s passing, Janet continued to host fund raisers at her home for the benefit of the Foster Preservation Society.


As a member of the Gentian Garden Club, and with her love of flowers, Janet was adamant about beautifying the walkway to the Town Hall, filling the flower boxes at the Eddy Building and making sure wreaths were placed at the Town House at Christmastime.


Janet never refused a good challenge when it came to brainstorming the next fundraising event, going through musty, old documents for archiving, or climbing through the brush and thicket to find the next headstone.  She is an invaluable asset to our organization and the community.  The Foster Preservation Society is honored to name Janet White as our "2015 Citizen of the Year".

Citizen of the Year Award - 2014


Ed Balfour was named "Citizen of the Year" for 2014 by the Foster Preservation Society.

Since his youth, Ed has been interested in history. Born in Cranston, raised in Warwick, Ed followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and joined the Varnum Continentals, a unit of the Rhode Island Militia, achieving the rank of Major. The Varnum Continentals are an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of James Mitchell Varnum, who served under General George Washington, and later became a Major General in command of the entire RI Militia.

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Ed made a career in State Government, working for the Department of Business Regulation. He and his wife, Suzanne (Poole), moved to Foster 24 years ago. Researching the history of their former home, the Major John Greene house, resulted in information showing that the many families who had lived in the house before them were either related to he or Suzanne. The television show, "If Walls Could Talk", actually contacted Ed, made the trip to Rhode Island, filmed the house and featured it on HGTV.

Interested in genealogy, Ed joined the Rhode Island Genealogical Society. One of his greatest achievements was researching his family connection to General George Washington’s army, which allowed him to become a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Genealogical research has brought Ed as far away as England, Scotland and Wales, and closer to home, all over New England.

As the author of Notes on a House in Westconnaug: It’s People and History, Ed has written the story of prior generations and their efforts in developing Colonial Rhode Island and the Scituate, Foster (or Westconnaug), area. Ed has had numerous articles printed in the Foster Home Journal, allowing us an insight into the extensive genealogical research that has kept him so busy.

Ed has participated in our Barn Tours, helping as a docent, dressing up in period garb, and educating visitors about our Town’s history. As a member of the Foster Preservation Society, he sits on the Archive Committee, or the Wednesday Group, as we lovingly call it. Having the honor of being Town Historian, Ed continues with his love of genealogy as he assists people with their research. He is an invaluable asset to our organization and the community, allowing his research to be used by future generations in their quest to discover family lines.

Preserving the past, whether with documentation of genealogical lineage, educating people through authoring a book about Colonial Rhode Island, or by participating in the Varnum Continentals, Ed has accomplished this feat. The Foster Preservation Society is honored to name Edward "Ed" Balfour as our "2014 Citizen of the Year."

Citizen of the Year Award - 2013


Heidi Colwell was named "Citizen of the Year" for 2013 by the Foster Preservation Society.  Born to Swiss parents Robert & Anna Schlaepfer, Heidi was the first generation of her family to be born in the U.S. and raised in Foster.  She attended the Hopkins Mills one-room schoolhouse and completed her high school years attending school in the big city.  Her children, Gordie and Bea, were exposed at an early age to their mother’s commitment to her community and volunteerism.  She was assigned to “man” the Red Phone, which was associated with the Ambulance Corp. and the Fire Departments.  She was instrumental in the formation of the South Foster Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary and is still a vibrant member.  For many years she has been involved with the Old Home Days Committee (originally the Foster Fair), actively keeping an age-old tradition alive in the community.

She was employed as Deputy Town Clerk and became Town Clerk, going above and beyond her normal duties to assist the townspeople.  Heidi is a devoted wife, mother and grandmother.  Many are proud to call her “friend”.  With her incredible sense of humor, she brightens up any room or situation she enters upon.  She and her husband, Dick Colwell, have been active members of the Foster Preservation Society for many years.  As a volunteer on the Archive and Cemetery Committees, she is vital to preserving our history for future generations.  Her wealth of knowledge of the local history is a valuable asset to the Town.  She is someone we consider a true “preservationist”.

Citizen of the Year Award - 2012


George Newman was named "Citizen of the Year" for 2012 by the Foster Preservation Society.  George, known to many as “Huffy”, a nickname given to him by his father, is this year’s recipient of the Foster Preservation Society’s Citizens Award.  His dedication to the preservation of Foster should not go unrecognized.  Along with his wife Kay (who has since passed away), George raised three children: Chuck, Danny & Tracey.  At a very early age he became a volunteer firefighter and is now the longest running member of the South Foster Fire Department.


He served in WWII in the Army Air Corps and was wounded during the war.  Back home, he established a career in Forestry (DEM), starting as a Ranger and achieving the position of Head of Fire Control for the entire State of RI.  George is an active member of the American Legion.  Known as the Cookie Man, George delivers his baked goods to Nancy Ann Nursing Home as well as other locations.  He is an avid woodworker.  George has a passion for anything to do with the Civil War.  George has been involved with the Old Home Days Committee for many years and can be seen every year volunteering at Old Home Days along with his fellow firefighters at the gate or any other job that is required of him.  He is an active member of the Foster Preservation Society, serving on the Archiving Committee, also known as the Wednesday Group, where he is known for saying “you’ve just got to read this!”  He is on the Cemetery Committee, or the Thursday Group, going over hill and dale in search of graves that have been long lost to time.  Besides the group members, he is sometimes accompanied by his son, Danny, on these treks.


Devoting a lifetime to the preservation of our Country and Homeland, and much closer, devoting a lifetime to the preservation our community, we are pleased to honor this year’s recipient, George Newman, with the Foster Preservation Society’s Citizens Award.

Citizen of the Year Award - 2011


Bruce Campbell was named "Citizen of the Year" for 2011 by the Foster Preservation Society.  He is pictured here receiving the award from FPS President, Maggie Fennessey on Friday July 29, 2011 at Old Home Days.  Bruce has been a resident of Foster since 1968.  A Brown graduate and a gourmet cook who raises his own vegetables, he has established a scholarship at the University of Rhode Island.  He belongs to the Narragansett Bay Commission as well as the Appalachian Hiking Club and has been a member of the both the Town Council and the Planning Board.  In 1984 he bought a farm on Plain Woods Road and for the past three Barn Tours he has graciously allowed the Preservation Society to include his glorious barn in our tours.


Citizen of the Year Award - 2010

Walter Grass was named the "Citizen of the Year" for 2010 by the Foster Preservation Society.  He is pictured here receiving the award from FPS President, Maggie Fennessey, at Old Home Days.  Walter is the author of the book This Finnish Episode: Recalling the Finns in Foster, Rhode Island and its Surrounding Areas available from the Preservation Society.  Click here to visit our Bookshop.




Citizen of the Year Award - 2009

Doug Thoman was named the "Citizen of the Year" for 2009 by the Foster Preservation Society for his many years of tireless work as caretaker of Spears Cemetery on North Road.  He is pictured here receiving the award from FPS President, Maggie Fennessey, at the Friday night festivities of Old Home Days.








Citizen of the Year Award - 2008


Fred Mikkelsen was named the "Citizen of the Year" for 2008 by the Foster Preservation Society.  Fred was the blacksmith at the Winsor Blacksmith shop presenting demonstrations of this old craft to shop visitors as well as working to maintain this small museum.


Fred lives in Scituate but has been a faithful and enthusiastic supporter of the Foster Preservation Society for many years.













Community Service Award - 2007


Shirley Printer was recognized by the Foster Preservation Society as the winner of the 2005 Community Service Award.   Shirley was offered our thanks for her many years as "Keeper of the Albums", an unofficial title, but a critically important job.  Our albums of news articles about Foster detail history in the making so we chose to recognize Shirley's faithful behind the scenes efforts in collecting this information for posterity.

Community Service Award - 2006


Jim Carlson was recognized by the Foster Preservation Society as the winner of the 2006 Community Service Award.  Jim has dedicated many years towards ensuring that the celebration of Old Home Days continues and thrives as a member of the Old Home Days Committee and for many years, as its Chair.  Jim was also a member of the Town Hall Building Committee and was involved in the design and construction of the supper shed

Community Service Award - 2005


Parke Burgess was recognized by the Foster Preservation Society as the winner of the 2005 Community Service Award.  Parke was offered our thanks for his many years as overseer of the Winsor Blacksmith Shop.

Community Service Award - 2003


Viola Ulm was recognized by the Foster Preservation Society as the winner of the 2003 Community Service Award.  Viola through her dedication to the preservation of the Town's rural character, exemplifies the characteristics we feel should be honored.


Community Service Award - 2002


Dick Colwell was recognized by the Foster Preservation Society as the winner of the 2002 Community Service Award.  As most residents know, Dick brings history to life with his furniture making and restoration projects.  He is a community volunteer who strives to preserve the rural character of Foster and is a wealth of knowledge of its history.

Community Service Award - 2001


Charles Borders was recognized by the Foster Preservation Society as the winner of the 2001 Community Service Award.  Charles was recognized for his work on the Swamp Meadow covered bridge project.








Foster Preservation Society

P.O. Box 51

Foster, RI 02825

Phone (401) 397-5687