Hub Foster died Friday morning. It wasn't earth shattering news in Houston where the big story this time of year is always The Rodeo. It is a big story in York, Nebraska, the town of 6,000 citizens where I grew up. Hub was born in York and died in York and except for time he spent in college and serving in the military, Hub lived everyday of his life in York. Every small town that thrives and survives has its own version of Hub Foster. He did a little bit of everything in his ninety-five year life. Graduating from York High, as I did just a few years later, Hub was an honor student at the University of Nebraska, married his lovely wife, Ruth, raised three children, and owned a number of businesses. He was a member of many service organizations and had a city park named in his honor. Hub was the face of the York News-Times, the daily newspaper that was the source of news in York County before the advent of the Internet, writing columns and editing the sports pages. He was inducted into both the York High School and York College Halls of Fame. Hub received the Hub Foster Lifetime Achievement Award from the York Area Chamber of Commerce which, of course, also bears his name. In later years, he organized a travel group for seniors called the Fun Club which has grown to a staggering 4,000 members! To many, Hub was the promoter and voice of all local athletics- high school, college, and summer baseball- acting as announcer for countless sporting events over the course of many decades. I just simply cannot overstate it by naming all the things he was involved in: to many, Hub Foster was York, Nebraska.
There is a personal side to why his death two days ago impacted me. Hub was a huge influence in my life. When we moved to York from Brooklyn, when I was four, Hub became our family insurance agent. I have absolutely no idea why but when I was about six, he began bringing by his old issues of Sports Illustrated every month or so for Dave and me to read. I remember devouring them, almost memorizing them, and I became enamored with sports, as did Dave, even though our folks never played an organized game of anything. Coincidentally, Dave, Scott, and I all coach for a living and apparently it wasn't in our DNA. When I was fourteen and started playing in the American Legion baseball program for the York Midgets, I went six for six in my first at bats and Hub called me, and I quote, 'the hottest hitter in Nebraska' and that snippet was picked up and reprinted in the Omaha World Herald. Hub was also a proud member of the American Legion, Bolton Post 19 and would drive in our car pool to out of town games. I often rode in his car down Interstate 80 to bigger cities like North Platte and Kearney and Grand Island, listening with my teammates to his countless stories. One summer, I couldn't play baseball because of my work conflicts at the Jack and Jill Supermarket. Hub tried to intervene with the manager but to no avail, a rare setback for him! The highlight of my life athletically was my career playing basketball for the York High Dukes. I recall like it was yesterday, discussing with the other guys how we would do hand slaps when Hub called our names, announcing the starters to the highly partisan crowd at the York City Auditorium. And when I was playing baseball at York College, I was chosen to be the recipient for two years of a scholarship Hub set up for a deserving young man, which apparently in his mind, I was. Suffice it to say, Hub was a recurring thread through the course of my life as a youngster and I doubt I'm the only one.
I saw him several years ago. After my folks moved away, I had no relatives to pull me back but nostalgia is a strong force and so I took some time off and drove back to my hometown. I dropped by the News-Times unannounced one June day and his recall of my family history/updates and that of my friends was amazing, even remembering that Dan Leininger and I were high school teammates and classmates and that Dan worked the next block over. (As a coach, I can tell you that is no easy task!) He excitedly told me all about the Fun Club and I filled him in on the direction my life had taken. You know, I wish Hub had written a book about small town life and what makes someone stay where they were born until the day they die. He had a perspective few can ever match and a knowledge of local lore that is probably untouchable. Many of us have come and gone over the years but not A. Hubert Foster. The truth is, the story of York, Nebraska is the story of Hub Foster and I hope future generations aren't deprived of his memory. On the News-Times website, I saw that it's 21 degrees with snow in the forecast tonight, not that unusual even in March in the Midwest. But I can only imagine the street lights in York are just a little bit dimmer this evening in Hub's honor. That's the least they could do.
Applicable quote of the day:
“A small town is a place where there's no place to go where you shouldn't.”
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