Saturday, January 25, 2014

Secret Service Agent Robert W. Foster dies. He was assigned to protect Caroline and John Jr.

Holding back his own tears, the man comforted Caroline Kennedy, holding her hand at her father's funeral in 1963.
Decades later, when the plane carrying Caroline's brother crashed into the ocean, it was difficult for the man to watch the news reports. He preferred to remember John Jr. as the little boy he held on outings to the park or who laughed at his made-up stories.
He was Robert W. Foster, one of the Secret Service agents charged with protecting the children of President John F. Kennedy.
Foster, who also served as a U.S. marshal for southern Ohio and sergeant-at-arms for the Ohio General Assembly, died Tuesday at First Community Village in Columbus of congestive heart failure. He was 78.
The Worthington native served in the Army from 1948 to 1953 and attended Ohio State University, where he earned a degree in education in 1955.
Foster guarded the Kennedy children from 1961 until 1964. Kennedy's assassination hit him hard, as it did others who worked closely with the family.
"All of us shed tears," said Thomas Wells, also a former Secret Service agent. "The trauma was severe to everyone."
Wells, 74, of Saint Augustine, Fla., said he and Foster were among five agents assigned to Kennedy's family.
He recalled Foster had a "dry wit and was fun to be around."
Foster's ex-wife, Peggy, who lives in Worthington, recalled a comment by the president's father, Joseph Kennedy: "Mr. Foster, how does a Republican from Columbus, Ohio, wind up guarding my son -- a Democrat from Massachusetts?"
Andrew Foster said his father never let politics interfere with his duties, a hallmark of the Secret Service.
"It was the most meaningful service that he rendered to the country," Andrew Foster, 44, of Princeton Junction, N.J., said. "He took an enormous amount of pride in his affiliation to the Secret Service."
After Jacqueline Kennedy and her children moved to New York in 1964, Robert Foster took on other Secret Service assignments, including the Democratic convention in 1968 in Chicago.
He retired from the agency in 1978 after serving as the special-agent-in-charge of the Columbus office.
He was a marshal from 1981 to 1994 and sergeant-at-arms through 2001.
Family members said it was difficult for Foster to draw the line between his work and his love for gardening. Andrew Foster recalled his father caring for his garden in his suit and tie.
"He was still at heart kind of a farm boy," the son said. "He was kind of like a little kid."
Peggy Foster remembers Robert Foster for his exuberance, his passion for traveling across the country, and their "Camelot time" during the Kennedy administration.
"He had a gift for telling jokes and stories," she said, "a genuine sense of humor. Everyone would agree with that."
The couple had three children: Andrew Foster, Katherine Foster Parramore of Virginia, and Robert Foster Jr. of Dallas.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. July 8 at Rutherford-Corbin Funeral home, 515 High St., in Worthington. Friends may call one hour before the service.

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