Gerald Foster: the Newfoundland Years, 30 December, 1971 - 20 July, 1988.

Early Days In Newfoundland.

We arrived in St. John's in the middle of Winter, in December 1971, from Australia. We were only supposed to stay for 1 year (Dad had a sabbatical from the Unversity of Sydney), but in the end he was offered a permanent job so we ended up staying in Newfoundland.

To say that there was a bit of an adjustment to be made, to cope with the weather, was an understatement! Mom bought a "winter" jacket in Sydney for both myself and Gerald. They looked very Canadianesque as they were checkered and (fake) fur lined, but there the similarity ended! Quite a style item for the Aussie winter climate, but we froze that first winter in Newfoundland.

One of our first forays, around St. John's, involved going along Higgin's Line and from there crossing a very flat snow covered field. When we came back and consulted a map, we found out that the field in question was, in fact, Kent's Pond. Luckily the ice was quite thick that Winter.

Another formative Canadian experience involved a major hike along Torbay Road, in a snowstorm, to K Mart to buy some skates (on special for the bargain price of $4.99). Up to this point, in our lives, we were blissfully ignorant of tax, but when presented with a bill for $4.99, plus the sales tax, we had to dig very deep indeed into our pockets. We must have been able to cover it as we did come back with the skates.

In January 1972, we both went to Macpherson Junior High School (Gerald in Grade 8 and I went into Grade 9). We still possessed very strong Aussie accents and some communication problems did present themselves. When asked if we had a pencil the teacher just did not understand us when we said, "no but we had a biro". It was also 6 months before we could ask for a can of Coke when at a store - they just did not get it - so it was Pepsi or nothing!. But Macpherson was good for both of us and it was here, and soon after Prince of Wales Collegiate, that we began making friendships, some of which have lasted to this day.

Contributed by Aidan Foster.

Freshwater Road

Gerald lived in this house on Freshwater Road for most of the 1970s. One of the reasons we bought it was that it had 5 bedrooms, and all the children could have their own room. Behind the house was a large garage with a loft over it. Aidan and Gerald held parties in the loft. One of Gerald's hobbies during this period was renovating old cars. This photograph was taken in August 2008, by his brother Aidan, on a visit to Newfoundland.

A Tribute from Lisa Dodd

It was actually through Aidan that I met Gerald when I was around 16, (1976). However, I was a tomboy, and spent many hours in the garage on Freshwater Road, with Jeff Feltham and Gerald, watching them dismantle and rebuild cars. I have happy memories of the house on Freshwater Road - I remember the cats, and Jamie the dog, and the house always had a relaxed atmosphere. Gerald would be coming and going, covered in grease. He is a central character in just about all my best memories , from our teenage years to when Gerald and Wendy moved to England.

I have many more memories of Gerald: from hanging out at the garage on Freshwater Road, to camping at Doctor's Cove, to scraping the siding on the house in Merrymeeting Road. There was never a dull moment when Gerald was around.

While we had not seen each other in a number of years, we kept in touch, and it was always good to think of Gerald happily working away on some project or other across the sea. If you gave Gerald a door knob, he could build a house around it. If you gave him a windscreen wiper, he could reconstruct a car to attach it to.

I will miss his constant optimism, kind heart, his generous spirit and hospitality, his irrepressible sense of humor.

My heartfelt and deepest condolences to Gerald's family. Gerald is one of a kind, and he is missed from across the sea.

Lisa (Dodd) Savage (St. John's, Newfoundland)

Chemistry Department, Memorial University

Gerald's first full-time job was with Memorial University Chemistry Department. During this time he moved out of the family home, and went to live with his girl friend, Anne, in Portugal Cove. Gerald and Anne broke up in December 1980. They had a Newfoundland dog called Lance. Gerald loved dogs and had quite a number during his lifetime.


A Tribute from Betty Miller who remembers him from his period in the Chemistry Department.

My memories of Gerald date back to 1979 when I was a secretary in the Physics Dept. at MUN. Gerald worked in Chemistry and I often gave him rides home during a very long and snowy winter. He was a friend to everyone who knew him and his door was always open to welcome visitors. I am deeply saddened to hear the news. My thoughts are with his family and many friends who are still dear to him.

Betty Miller (Mississauga ON)

Physics Department

It was during his time in the Physics Department that Gerald first met Wendy Sylvia who was later to become his wife. Wendy writes: "When I met Gerald in 1981, he came with Aidan who brought the cat, Fang to my apartment for me to borrow for a few weeks, as I had a mouse infestation. Gerald was living at St. Clair Avenue with Bob Green and some others. We soon started going out and 4 months later we decided to move in together. By then he was living on Blatch Avenue, which is perpendicular to Merrymeeting Road, where he saw the house that we were later to buy."

"We were quite poor, as I was still a student at MUN and worked part-time in Classic Bookshops. Gerald was working in the MUN Physics Department as a Cryogenics Technician. We saw a place in Three Island Pond, several miles out of St. John's, which was for rent, very cheap ($200 a month). It was about all we could afford. It was really just a summer holiday cabin but Gerald convinced me the place could be winterized, which we spent the next two months doing as well as painting and fixing it up. It was a brutally cold winter, and we frequently woke up to frost on the inside of the windows. The worst event was when the pipes from the well froze and Gerald decided to thaw them with a blow torch, hanging upside down into the well with a rope tied round his middle and me holding the rope as well as it being wrapped round a tree."

"Anyway, the owner liked the renovations so much he raised the rent beyond what we could afford and we had to move out. We stayed with Gerald's dad for 3 or 4 months trying to save money for a deposit on the house in Merrymeeting Road. We married, in the house in Merrymeeting Road, on 19th December, 1983."

Drawn by the late Walter Wasmeier. Contributed by Aidan Foster.

Tributes from Former Members of Memorial Physics Society

I was very saddened to hear of Gerald's passing. I remember well an evening spent with Gerald, Wendy, Rona and others in a Cambridge pub almost twenty years ago now. I had just begun a year's sojourn in the UK. Although at that time I had not seen Gerald in a few years, I rang him out of the blue when I was passing through Cambridge. Gerald promptly arranged a get-together, making me feel suddenly at home in my new environment. This meant a lot to me at the time, and was very typical of Gerald's natural friendliness.

I knew Gerald through the Physics Society at Memorial University. A large group of us would always have lunch together in the Physics Society room and occasionally (some might say regularly!) go for a drink on Fridays. I later met Aidan, and later still, during my year in the UK, came to know Rona and her then-fiancee, James.

My condolences to the family, and especially to Rona, Wendy and Aidan, all of whom I have not seen in far too long.

Eric Woolgar (Edmonton, Canada).

I first met Gerald many years ago when I was a student at Memorial University and joined the Physics Society. He helped make the Physics Society a fun and memorable time for me and many others.

Mike Coomes (Delta, BC Canada).

I can't remember when exactly I met Gerald, but it was during my undergraduate studies 1973-1977. I figure it may have been either 1975 or 1976 and it was through mutual friends who hung out at the Physics Society at MUN. Martin Hatswell or maybe his friends Denis Martin, the late Walter Wassmeier, Jeff Feltham. There was a group of us who used to meet at the Physics Soceity office regularly just to chat, socialize and party. I remember Gerald being such an energetic person. He loved to have a "yarn" with folks, tell a story, have a laugh and it seemed he always had to be doing something - - - just keep moving, fixing things, creating, planning, tearing something apart, renovating, creating or building. Beyond the Physics Society, the house on Freshwater Road and later at Merrymeeting Road - - -"

Brenda Newhook (Student Counsellor, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar).

Get-Together in Collier's Cabin

Gerald folk fiddling with Phil Kirby. He really preferred classical music and, when he worked in Cambridge, began attending the Duxford Saturday Workshop. This gave him the opportunity to play in an orchestra. Gerald also attended classes in violin making, in Cambridge, and made his own violin. This violin is now one of Katie and Ian's most prized possessions.

Left-right, Gerald, Phil, Linda & Wendy at the cabin in the woods nr. Collier, about 50 miles southwest of St. John's. Wendy said she only went once (on the occasion that these photographs was taken), but she thought Gerald went several times. Gerald liked playing the clown.

Gerald with Linda Guest. The cabin was owned by Linda and her husband, Roger. The dog Gerald is holding is Fred, which Wendy recalls they had until Katie was almost one year old.

Photographs contributed by Roger Guest.

Gerald the Adventurer: Doctor's Cove and Beyond.

Photograph contributed by Roger Guest

Doctor's Cove was a favourite camping ground of both Gerald and his brother, Aidan. There were no longer any houses in Doctor's Cove, at that time, and they liked it because it was so lonely and wild. Aidan re-visited it last summer and he says this is no longer true as it is right on the East Coast trail. Gerald loved the outdoors, but had no interest whatever in competitive sports unlike most of his school fellows.

Wendy writes, "Gerald had an adventurer side to him, exploring the wilderness and enjoying the outdoors. He successfully passed that on to both the kids and particularly to Ian. I think that is how I like to remember him best, on the various camping trips we took, him striding ahead with the kids in tow, he so enthusiastic and they loved it."

"I have fond memories of camping trips with Gerald and other friends. I remember one trip in particular when Gerald was adamant that his big old green-coloured pick-up truck could make it down the dirt road (actually a path) to Doctor's Cove. Although others advised against it Gerald managed to drive the truck to the Cove, but it was much harder getting it back the next day. It was raining quite a bit and the truck got stuck in the mud. The guys tried to push it out, mud was splattered all over everyone and needless to say a few select phrases were being slung about, BUT the truck did make it back out of that old country road." (Brenda Newhook)

Wendy remembers the old truck, "It was a bit of a wreck, but it managed to transport lots of building supplies etc. I remember when Rona and James came to visit. James saw it parked on the road across from our house and exclaimed, 'Good God, don't they have MOTs here! That would never be allowed on the road in the UK.' This was before he knew it was Gerald's truck, but Gerald just laughed. He was proud of the battered old thing, which he lovingly called The Beast."

"This photograph was taken by Chris Sharpe in the summer of 2003. It is in the kitchen of 124 Woodland Road, Sawston and Gerald had just finished the extension to the house. At the time, Gerald was obsessed with Shackleton and the South Pole. He is wearing a t-shirt purchased at the South Pole Inn, Annascaul Village, County Kerry when we visited Ireland earlier that year. South Pole Inn was once owned by Thomas Crean, the Antarctic Explorer and second officer to Shackleton. Gerald was seriously thinking of going to the South Pole. He went to the British Antarctic Survey Offices to check out what he had to do to comply. Not sure how much further he took that idea as we split up about that time." (Wendy)

During the last years of his life Gerald was fascinated by Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. He thought it was a climb he could do. Neither of these projects came to fruition because of his early death.

Merrymeeting Road: Marriage.

110, Merrymeeting Road was the first house Gerald and Wendy owned together. It needed lots of renovations, and they were still working on it right up to the wedding. Two days before Gerald was working on the hall, and he put new wallpaper on it the day before the wedding. Renovating houses became one of Gerald's abiding interests. He made a good profit on the one in Merrymeeting Road when he sold it to move to England.

The staircase was finished 3 days before the wedding. Aidan was one of the witnesses, and he is seen here signing the register. Wendy pointed out that he was slightly put off because they had spelt his name incorrectly on the marriage license. ( It is Aidan not Aiden).

Wendy remembers that she made the cake herself, and it was not a sucess. In one picture she was putting so much pressure on the knife to cut the cake that her hand was white. Afterwards, even the birds wouldn't eat it!

Gerald becomes a Father

Ian waving from the door of No.110.

Gerald with baby Katie, "caught in mid-pat". Katie's clown is poking its head out of the baby swing.

Katie attempting to shovel snow in the front of 110 Merrymeeting Road. Her mum remembers how pleased she was to be out "helping" with the snow.

Katie was born on 4th October, 1984 at the Grace General Hospital St. John's and Ian on 23 April, 1986 also at the Grace General Hospital. They were both baptized in the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. John's.

A Tribute from Memorial Geography Department.

Gerald with Robert Rowsell and Alison Dyer, graduate students from the Geography Department, 1986. Contributed by Dr. Joyce Macpherson, Dept. of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland

17 April 2008

I first met Gerald in about 1983 when he accepted the position of Science Technician in the Department of Geography at Memorial University. He was the best Science Tech we've ever had. I've measured each of his successors against his record of ingenuity, dedication and enthusiasm, and all have come up short. Nothing was ever too much trouble for Gerald. Anna, my younger daughter still sleeps in the bed that Gerald helped me design and build in the departmental workshop (most likely against the rules and regulations!) for my son, who was then 10, and is now 32.

We lost contact with each other when he returned to the UK, but one day an email from him popped up on my computer screen, and happily, he re-entered my life. We got together each time I was in England during the summers teaching at our campus in Harlow. One year he loaned us three bicycles, which allowed us to discover the beautiful Essex countryside around Harlow. In 2003-4 my wife, daughter and I lived in Harlow for a year, and Gerald's unfailing kindness, generosity and good humour made that the best year of our lives. We will always have fond memories of air shows at Duxford, being introduced to the coffee man in the Cambridge market, wine raids to France, punting past the Backs, sleep-overs at each others houses . . . England will never be the same for us again.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Julie, Katie, Ian and all other members of Gerald's family that we have never met.

Chris Sharpe (St. John's, Newfoundland).

Gerald with Wendy & Mary Jane Puxley (wife of Chris)at Vimy Ridge, France, October 2003. They went on a day trip to France to buy wine & visited the Canadian Great War site of Vimy Ridge on the same day.

Gerald the Entertainer.

Gerald with Phil Kirby


Photographs contributed by Roger Guest.

Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science. Centre for Computer Aided Engineering.

The estabishment of as Centre for Computed Aided Engineering was announced on February 11, 1986. It was a joint project of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Gerald was appointed as one of the first staff. He is seen here with the Systems Manager, Peter Ball and held the post of Consultant/Operator. He had dropped out of his degree programme after the first year. Today, he thought, he would have been diagnosed with dyslexia and he found academic work a struggle. Computers though had fascinated him ever since one was introduced into his school , Prince of Wales Collegiate. Now that he had something to aim for, he began to take courses in his spare time with a view to majoring in Computer Science. He completed his Master's at the University of East Anglia and went on to publish a book "Desktop Management with Novell ZENworks". Both his degrees, after the first year, were taken while working full time.

"In 1988, just after the 1987 stock market crash, there was a job boom for computer specialists in the UK. While employment prospects were limited in Newfoundland, the possibilities in England were wide open. Gerald applied for a number of positions and flew to the UK for interviews in London, Birmingham, Cambridge and Surrey. He was offered 2 positions, one in Surrey and the other in Cambridge. He decided to accept the one in Cambridge as, at the time, house prices were more affordable. We arrived in England July 20, 1988, and Gerald began working at the Plant Breeding Institute as the Computer Manager. We rented a house at 89A Queen Edith's Way for 3 months. Then we got a rental house at 20 The Close, Babraham in the grounds of the Babraham Institute (then the AARC Institute for Animal Health & Genetics research).

In 1990 the majority of the PBI's staff (including Gerald) were relocated to newly built facilities at the John Innes Institute where they formed the 'Cambridge Laboratory', and we bought the house in Bunwell. The house was originally called Esperanto Domo which I hated, so we changed the name to the Maples and planted about 6 different types of maples in the back garden to ensure accuracy.

Gerald took a job as Computing Site Manager at the Reading site of the Institute of Food Research in 1993, and we rented the house in Shinfield from 1993 until 1996. This site was also closed down through government cutbacks, and Gerald worked for almost a year with the Harpenden Computing Centre which was part of the AFRC, which later formed into the BBSRC in 1994.

In 1996, Gerald accepted a position as Computer Officer in the Computer Services Department, University of Cambridge. He was Manager of the Public Workshops Facility. We rented 37 Brewery Road in Pampisford, and a year later bought the house in Sawston at 124 Woodland Road. Gerald was a Senior Member of Fitzwilliam College and in 2001 was awarded an M.A. from Cambridge (Master of Arts [Grace 4 of 8 December 2001] Foster, Gerald. Computer Officer Grade 1 in the University Computing Service and of Fitzwilliam College.)