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John Foster

Jul 30, 1930 - Apr 6, 2018
ObituaryShare A Memory


Award-winning photographer and emeritus professor of journalism at Central Washington University John P Foster died April 6 in West Richland. John was known for photographs taken during his 30 years at CWU and at the Ellensburg Rodeo. John loved photographing people. He also was noted for his humor and quick wit which often were associated with his photographs.
John claimed his best professional achievement was to be invited to the 1981 Champions of American Sports exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery honoring 100 of the nation’s top athletes.  On display was his photo of bareback rider Larry Mahan being dragged by the horse. That image was voted top rodeo photograph of the year by the International Rodeo Writers’ Assoc. The honor included an invitation to a reception at the White House where he met his heroes President Ronald Reagan and Vice president George H W Bush.
His Ellensburg Rodeo arena action photos won Levi-International Rodeo Writers Association awards seven times.  A photo of Tom Ferguson steer wrestling at Ellensburg illustrated the sport of rodeo in the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year in 1976. He was inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2001 and was honored to serve as grand marshal for the 2012 parade.
John won honors for his photographs from the Indianapolis Press Club and the Indiana Associated Press and was named New Mexico Press Association Photographer of 1959. Beginning in 1975 he had photos published in four annual editions of Best Sports Stories other images were published in books and on book jackets. He won honors at national meetings of the University Photographers Association three years and first prize for sports photography at the National Press Photographers Association contest. John’s photographs were transmitted nationwide by the Associated Press and United Press International and published in most major US newspapers and in many foreign publications. Video work was shown on all Seattle, Spokane and Yakima television stations plus the NBC "Today" show.
Life magazine published on its Miscellany page a photograph of a CWU graduate grimacing as a medallion was placed around his neck. "A Fitting Tribute" was the caption for the commencement photo of the medallion with a very tight chain
John was born July 30, 1930 to Lester and Lila Smith Foster in Greenfield, Indiana. After graduation from Maxwell High School, John received a BS degree in business-journalism at Indiana University in 1958 and a master’s degree in audio-visual communication in 1965. His education was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Air Force. 
While working at the IU student newspaper, he met his future wife Barbara Watt, whom he frequently referred to as his “first wife”.  They would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June.  
His newspaper experience included work as a photographer at The Indianapolis News, a reporter-photographer at The Roswell (NM) Daily Record and The Greenfield Daily Reporter, as editor of The Hancock Journal, a weekly newspaper. He got his start in photography shooting races at the Indianapolis 500.
John was raised on an Indiana farm where purebred hogs, sheep and beef cattle were raised and as a youth he enjoyed competing in 4-H animal projects, winning awards at the International Livestock Show at Chicago, Indiana and Ohio state fairs and at the prestigious Indianapolis Fat Lamb Show. Later in life in addition to photographic competition, he also enjoyed competing with his chickens, ducks and geese in state and national competition. He won championships at state fairs in Puyallup, Yakima, Monroe and Spokane.
John served 10 years on the Ellensburg Rodeo Board as director of publicity and advertising and one year as director of admissions. He founded the CWU Rodeo Club and was an advisor.
Public service activities included Rotary Club board of directors, Kittitas County Republican secretary and delegate to the state convention two years; State Tourism Task Force, central Washington region; State Department of Commerce and Economic Development advisory board regional member; vice chairman of Kittitas County Planning Commission; Boy Scout troop committeeman; Ellensburg Bicentennial committee and volunteer for the National Western Art Show, Kittitas County Fair, Chamber of Commerce, Kittitas County Museum photography and the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.
John and Barb moved to West Richland in 2014.  Survivors include Barb, daughter Cynthia, College Station, TX; sons Tom (Teresa), Pasco, and Andy (Cathy), grandchildren, Luke and Abby, West Richland, and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Tom Foster, Greenfield, IN, and Dr. James Foster, West Lafayette, IN.
Those who had an impact on his life in addition to his family included the late John Ludtka, publisher of the Daily Record who hired John to teach at CWU and to work as a photographer in the office of information; the late Helen Michaelsen, CWU home economics professor, who was a friend and neighbor; his late friend John B. Liboky, CWU director of Financial Aid; the late Dr. James Nylander, CWU professor of physical education; the late Dr. Frank Bach, whose class  at CWU opened his eyes to art, and Dean Nicholson, CWU professor of physical education and coach.
Memorials may be made to Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame,110 W Sixth, PMB 374, Ellensburg, WA 98926 and to Chaplaincy Hospice Care, 1480 Fowler St, Richland, WA 99352  
Open House will be held Friday April, 13th from 1:00 - 3:00 at Rodeo City BBQ, 204 N Main, Ellensburg. Private Graviside Service will be held.

Funeral Information

Funeral service

Apr 13, 2018:1:00 - 3:00

Open House Rodeo City BBQ

204 N Main, Ellensburg