PORTLAND, Maine — A Down East native known for his contributions in the realms of business, education, public service and more died Thursday in Portland at the age of 77.
Though Robert H. Foster perhaps was best known for the fuel company he founded, he also was remembered for his involvement in the many organizations he led or was active in, among them the Machias Rotary Club, Anah Temple Shrine, the Katahdin Area Council of Boy Scouts and congregational churches in Machias and South Portland.
He also served on the board of some of Maine’s largest institutions, including Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., the University of Maine System, the Maine Oil Dealers Association and Fleet Bank.
Foster was born in 1934 in Dennysville, according to his obituary. He attended schools in Machias before earning a degree in civil engineering in 1956 from the University of Maine.
Three years later, he founded RH Foster Inc. in Machias. The company, originally called Foster Fuels, began as a Gulf Heating Oil dealership with one truck and Foster as its only employee. Over the decades, the company became a Mobil distributor and branched out into propane, gasoline and convenience stores throughout Maine. Foster also acquired an ocean terminal in Pembroke.
But fuel was not Foster’s only business. In 1984, he founded Wild Blueberry Co., a blueberry processing plant in Machias. He operated the company until 1997, when he sold it to Oxford Frozen Foods, according to his obituary.
On Thursday, Foster was remembered as a talented businessman, a gentleman and a Down Easter who never forgot his roots.
“Bob Foster will always be a consummate businessman, one of the best and brightest,” Chris Gardner, chairman of the Washington County commissioners, said Thursday night. “Everyone who knew Bob liked and respected him and held him in high regard,” he said. “We lost a truly good one.”
“Uncle Bob lived a great life and left an extraordinary legacy,” nephew Ray Foster of Machiasport said. “He was born and raised here and never forgot his roots. He gave so much back to the community.”
David Flanagan of Manchester, former CEO of Central Maine Power Co., served with Foster on the University of Maine System board of trustees in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“He was a real gentleman,” Flanagan recalled Thursday night. “Bob was the kind of guy who brought people together and forged compromises. He really listened to people and because of that, people thought highly of him.”
Foster also was a strong advocate for the University of Maine at Machias, Flanagan said.
“He cared about access [to higher education] and about people getting the opportunity to go to college, particularly in the rural parts of the state. He was one of those people who didn’t have to do this. He did it because he cared and he put a lot of time and effort into it.,” he said.
“He had that combination of characteristics that represent the best traditions of Maine, the best we have to offer.”