As I begin this, it is nearly midnight, usually about the time I go to bed, but I feel I have to write this. No rants or opinions at this hour, just ruminating on a friend.
I first met Terry Foster in Anspach Hall, in the basement offices of CMLife, the student newspaper at Central Michigan University in August 1980. We were both sports writers and Terry had a fantastic way of making you feel at home. I had already known a person on staff there, Chris Cross and she guided me into a seemingly seamless newsroom. Cramped as all hell, but much fun to go there every day.
Everyone loved Terry. Terry loved everyone else. He was a senior when I transferred there as a junior. I covered Tennis and Volleyball and occasionally wrote a feature story for Matt Dobek, the very quirky sports editor. Terry covered CMU football and wrote stories for the Detroit Free Press. Everyone wanted his assignments.
We used to goof around a lot. We would play football in the office and he was Anthony Carter and I was John Wrangler. Or he was Charlie Sanders and I was Greg Landry. His nickname for me was ‘Hilmer,’ after the middleweight boxing champion Hilmer Kenty, who trained with Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns at the Kronk Gym in Detroit. He never seemed to lack for female attention or friends. I went to a party at his apartment once and he was wearing a dress. It was Halloween and funny as all heck.
Our paths seemed to cross a lot during those years. After leaving Central, he got a job at the Grand Rapids Press and then the Free Press. Then, 1988, he got a plumb assignment, covering the Pistons for the News. The Bad Boys were just hitting their peak, on the rise to two NBA Championships and three Finals appearances. (should have been three championships, but for a phantom foul on Bill Laimbeer) And the wars between Chicago and Boston, epic battles. He was in LA and Portland when the Pistons won their titles.
In 1994, he became a columnist for the News, “a free-lancers job with a paycheck,” he once told me. He covered the Olympics, all the big events, and wrote about the Detroit sports scene. He gained national attention and got married and fathered two kids. He started doing sports-talk radio about this same time, first at WDFN and then at 97.1 FM. He was paired with Mike Valenti, a brash, out-of-towner who brought his east coast cynicism with him to Detroit. Foster, while somewhat of a cynic, still was a “homie,” someone who everybody could relate to and he could relate to everyone else.
But like so many of us once we hit the big 5-Oh, life starts throwing curveballs at you. For Terry, who never met a plate of food he didn’t eat, it came in the form of Type 2 diabetes. Never backing away from a challenge, he got serious and lost weight and had a personal trainer. He retired from the News in 2015, devoting all his time to his radio show and his family. His daughter, about to graduate from high school, is a standout soccer player and was involved in several travel teams.
Last August, he suffered a stroke. And then complications. He’s return was set for October, then pushed back. When he returned to the air in January, he wasn’t the same “goofy Terry,” either at work or at home. Yesterday, he just walked away. He just “didn’t feel like talking about Brad Ausmus’ latest moves or who the Lions should draft anymore.”
Most of us do reach that point in life, where things that seemed important, just don’t anymore. As I chronicled earlier this year in this space, I had my own health scare last fall as well. I recovered quickly, but for some, it is much different (Still, dying on the floor from being severely dehydrated isn’t the way I would have envisioned myself dying, but it almost happened). I don’t think Terry ever thought that two strokes would fell him or make him change his life, either, but it has and maybe it will work out for the best. Maybe the Terry Foster I’ve known for the better part of my life will still be around to call me up and say “Hilmer, you still playing table tennis?”
For now, my dear friend, yes. But who knows what the future holds. After all the Tigers need a lefty out of that damn bullpen and my arm can still throw. Enjoy your life, Terry. Just remember, somewhere, I can still drudge up that picture of you in a dress.