I didn”t know Don Foster well.
There were plenty of times in my first year as sports editor I saw Don at high school or college events. We never did get too chatty with each other, but we did say hello and then went about our jobs in our own ways.
But now that Foster, who died Monday at his home in West Point, is gone, I will remember one event we covered more than any other. Last month, East Webster High School had a signing ceremony for two of its tennis players — Jessica Halterman and Kaley Allen — who planned to continue their careers at Meridian Community College.
Events like these are common for local sportswriters, and they typically are one of the most enjoyable because the day is the culmination of that players dream.
Regardless of the sport, high school athletes invest countless hours honing their skills to get an opportunity to be considered for a scholarship, or a chance to play the sport they love at the next level.
That”s where sportswriters come in.
We usually are there chronicling every hit, or touchdown, or goal to make that moment special for the teams and the players.
Don did plenty of that in his years working in this area, and he did it with grace and with the joy of a grandfather given the chance to tell the story of his grandchildren.
It was satisfying for me to listen as East Webster parents and coaches said they had called Don to remind him about the signing and that they wanted him to be there. Yes, they wanted him to be there to report the news, but they also wanted him there to share the moment.
That time came nearly 30 minutes later after everyone assembled had listened to the players” accomplishments and had eaten a piece of a cake with yellow frosting shaped like half a tennis ball.
I talked to the coaches and athletes and then took a step back to eat my cake. I looked across the room and watched as Don, who was sitting at a table getting ready to talk to the girls, posed for a picture with them for one of the parents.
After 17 years in this business, it was especially satisfying to watch Don smile for that picture. That picture said everything you needed to know about how the people of East Webster and many people in this area felt about Don. The longtime sports editor of The Starkville Daily News dedicated himself to reporting the news — whether it was good or bad — and telling stories of the people in his community.
One picture never would be able to reflect a lifetime”s worth or work, but to me it represented things sportswriters always crave.
Don Foster belonged and was respected. He earned that respect by being at events in the rain or in the cold. He developed those relationships by taking the time on a busy day to talk to people and to listen to their concerns. He did his best to be fair and to tell both sides of a story.
Don Foster”s only agenda was to do the best job he could for everyone who played or was involved in sports in this area.
His legacy will be a hard one to follow because he will be missed.
But if we ever need reminding of how we need to do our jobs, we can remember that signing at East Webster and recall the things Don did to be asked to be included in that picture.
They might be little things, but they meant a whole lot to Don, and even more to the people he covered.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Commercial Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.