Bud Foster, founder of Foster’s Supermarket, turning 100 on May 22

  • Frank “Bud” Foster of Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield holds 5-pound lobsters during a 50 years of business celebration on Sept. 13, 1991. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • In 1994, Morley Safer of the long-running television news program “60 Minutes” visits with Bud Foster at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield. Staff FILE PHOTO

  • June and Frank “Bud” Foster, in a photo taken in 1988. Staff FILE PHOTO

  • Frank “Bud” Foster, founder of Foster’s Supermarket, is turning 100 on May 22. Contributed photo

  • Frank “Bud” Foster, founder of Foster’s Supermarket, is turning 100 on May 22. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2020 6:26:34 PM

The man who built a small mom-and-pop grocery store into an independent supermarket in Greenfield years ago will turn 100 on May 22.

Frank R. “Bud” Foster said from his home in Arizona this week that “life is good” and he has no complaints. Then, he broke into song: “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin.

“I’m looking out my window right now and I see nothing but blue skies, no clouds at all,” Foster said, laughing. He would continue to sing a line or two from the song every now and then during the phone interview.

Many people of a certain age, who either grew up in the county or settled here decades ago, will remember Foster’s legendary radio advertisements for Foster’s Supermarket: “Feesh, feesh, fresh feesh,” “Corn, corn, picked early this morn” or “Watta, watta, watermelon.” Those were just a few of the ways Foster entertained people and drew them into his store. Though his voice is a bit weaker now, when you listen hard enough, you can hear the man who did those commercials, and Foster decided to do a couple of them over the phone for old time’s sake.

It has been several decades since his two grandsons took over the operation, but his longtime partner Judi Smith, who previously lived in Montague City and now lives with him in a gated community of 365 homes in Arizona, said he still checks in with them to see how things are going.

“I’m turning 100, but it doesn’t feel any different,” he said. “I’m a pretty lucky boy. I have a loving companion of 12 years and she takes good care of me. I have had a good long life.”

The couple is currently “shut in” because of COVID-19, but hopes to get back out by summer. Foster and Smith said they’ve been “very active” in their community, which has a swimming pool, clubhouse and lots of group activities. They said they’ve loved playing cards and having dinner with friends, but that has all come to a halt during the pandemic.

“Bud is immobile at this point, too,” Smith said. “He had a hip operation a few years ago, and then he had to have another operation when he was having lots of problems with it. He uses a walker now.”

Foster still owns the home in Bernardston where he and his wife, June, raised their family. She died and eventually he and Smith became companions. They said they haven’t been back to the area in several years. Smith said Foster loves it in Arizona and just hasn’t had the urge to travel.

“We’ve got orange and grapefruit and lemon trees,” she said. “He loves fresh fruit. We’ve also got lots of friends. He likes it here.”

Smith said her family will come to visit, keeping their distance, on Friday. She said they’ve planned something to celebrate Foster’s birthday, but she’s not sure what. On Saturday, their neighbors are planning a parade in front of their house.

“We all have golf carts, so they are going to decorate their carts and drive by,” Smith said. “They wanted to make it special for him.”

She said she will cook Foster salmon, peas and baked potato for dinner with cake for dessert, though he likes pie better.

“I’m very happy with my beautiful life,” he said, interrupting her.

Foster said the first thing he does every morning is read the Greenfield Recorder online. The centenarian was one of the first Recorder Citizen of the Year recipients in 1985. Soon after, he was honored for his longtime support of the local Kiwanis Club. He was the auctioneer and organizer of the club’s annual auction.

Born in Leyden, Foster started in business in 1941 as a part owner of the student store at Mount Hermon School not long after graduating. When the independent Gill school took over the space, he decided to go from mostly selling books and dry goods to strictly groceries.

In 1952, he moved to Chapman Street, taking over Creek’s Market and offering customers free delivery. He traded with local farmers and had a marketing savvy that made him a local fixture for decades. In 1994, he even had a visit from CBS’s Morley Safer for a “60 Minutes” segment on small-scale retailing in an age dominated by large stores like Walmart.

“I’ve had an interesting life,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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