More than 70 Vineyard community members drove by Herb Foster’s home Sunday to wish him a happy 93rd birthday, and thank him for his ceaseless dedication to the betterment of the Island.
When asked what he wanted to say to his dozens of fans who carried signs, American flags, and bells as they drove by on his birthday, Foster smiled and said, “Thank you for supporting our library staff. I think we have raised quite a bit of money, so it was really good; I’m very happy about it.”
Ever since he moved to the Island full-time in 1998 with his late wife, Anita, Foster has served as a pillar of community involvement in several capacities.
Apart from being on the Edgartown Free Public Library’s board of trustees — a position he holds near and dear to his heart — Foster is also president emeritus of the Martha’s Vineyard Herbrew Center, a member of the Island NAACP chapter, and is heavily involved with the veteran community, having served as a Morse code operator in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Just a few days before Foster’s birthday, his daughter, Donna Fern Foster, teamed up with Edgartown library director Lisa Sherman, a longtime friend of Foster’s, to plan the drive-by celebration.
By the time Sunday rolled around, more than 70 people had RSVP’d for the event, and dozens more folks decided to spontaneously stop by once they heard about the impromptu party. The drive-by party was held because of the ongoing pandemic.
On the evite.com online event listing, dozens of well-wishers wrote kind messages to Herb on his special day.
Robert Herman wrote “our hero” on the online invitation, and at the drive-through celebration he said, “We love Herb.”
Linsey Lee wrote, “Happy Birthday to the most wonderful guy!” and Mike McCourt wrote, “I’d be more than honored to be involved in celebrating Herb’s Birthday. Such an amazing person.”
Some folks couldn’t attend the celebration, but wrote how much they wished they could be there to wave and blow kisses.
Jerry Fritz wrote, “Dear old friend, I wish I could be there to join the drive-by crew. I hope and pray your day is filled with much joy and many blessings. I just spoke of you recently in my Sunday morning message. Remember how you and I loved to share jokes and stories?”
Additionally, the Friends of the Edgartown Free Public Library have established the Herb and Anita Foster Staff Education Fund, which will “support professional development for Edgartown Library staff members who wish to pursue educational endeavors that support and enhance their role at the library,” according to the online event page.
Sherman said that in years past, everyone looked forward to Foster’s house parties, and he looked forward to them equally.
“Herb just loves a party,” Sherman said. “I hate that we can’t have his regular party this year.”
But according to Sherman, she and Foster’s family wanted to make this year as memorable as all the prior ones.
For Sherman, the immense outpouring of community support for Foster’s birthday is evidence to how involved he has been in all facets of the Island. “I think the outpouring of love he saw today is definitely a representation of all the support and love he has given to our community over the years, and I am so thrilled that there were so many people who were able to come out and support him here today,” Sherman said.
Donna added that it usually takes at least a month to plan Foster’s birthday party, but because she was concerned about his health, she decided to have the party sooner.
She echoed Sherman’s sentiment that Foster has done so much for the Vineyard, and the folks who drove by on his birthday wanted to return the favor.
“It’s all about my dad’s personality, and everything he has done for this Island. He doesn’t know a single stranger,” Donna said. “He’s the type of person who would be standing in the grocery line and start speaking with someone next to him, and invite them to his party.”
After several police officers and fire personnel drove by to wave at Foster, flash their lights, and wish him a happy birthday, Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said he “wouldn’t have missed this occasion for anything.”
“Herb sought me out as soon as I started here,” McNamee said. “It’s interesting, especially from a police perspective — on matters of race, he has been on top of topics like that for 30 or 40 years.”
McNamee said that as a veteran himself, “it’s hard not to be inspired by [Foster],” and added that “there are a lot of treats about being the Edgartown Police chief, but being friends with Herb is right at the top.”
You can honor Herb this year by sending a check to the Friends of the Edgartown Free Public Library, 26 West Tisbury Road, Edgartown, MA 02539, or go to https://secure.qgiv.com/for/fotefpl and select the Herb and Anita Foster Staff Education Fund from the drop-down menu.