William Fosterr, 1950–2022

Yesterday I attended a remembrance service for William Fosterr, whom I got to know and appreciate during my days as the sole IT contractor (2004 — 2011) for the Mental Health Association of Tulsa, now known statewide as MHAOK. I got to know William initially as one of the Front Desk people at their old location at 1870 S. Boulder Avenue, greeting everyone with a smile and a hug.

Those of us who have worked extensively in the “helping professions” have all had our lives made richer by interactions with folks who have come through dark times as social service nonprofit clients. William was no exception.

Others can do much better justice to his memory by telling deeper stories, but here is a nutshell version…

  • Was Youth Director at St. Nicholas’ Church in Chicago in the 70s
  • A seminarian, on track to a life in the clergy, then went to pursue an English degree at Marquette University
  • Taught Middle School English at St. Paul of the Cross School (Chicago)
  • Fast-forward to the early 2000s. In Tulsa, and was one of the first people to move in to the Baltimore Apts when MHAOK
  • In addition to Front Desk duties, he led many support groups to help others find their way
  • A shy and quiet person, he was an excellent guitarist, and gave me one of his CDs (the Spotify link is here)

In 2014 the Tulsa World wrote a feature piece about William. One of the quotes in the article is a perfect embodiment of William:

“Love is a risk, and we are taking a risk on these people. I initiate relationships with love. I give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I want them to see me serving them.”

I remember numerous deep and philosophical conversations in the lobby over coffee and at MHAOK’s United Way chili cookoff fundraisers. William was one of those people who, when talking with you, gave you 100% of his attention, listening intently, in a way that was at first unfamiliar but welcoming. In my case, it made me want to slow down my endless banter and make sure that what I was saying was WORTH HEARING.

Lessons happen when you need to hear them, and the lessons of William’s life recounted for us all yesterday were a great reminder to be engaged, listen with all your heart, and don’t be afraid to love.

It was great yesterday to see so many of our coworkers, and hear stories of William from friends in Chicago and years past.

To quote a MHAOK colleague, to honor the memory of a great servant and leader, give yourself the gift of a few minutes of William’s music above.

Other links:

HUD Archives: Meet Bill Fosterr

Tulsa World archive: Making the Transition

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