Allen Foster Sr., a musician, composer and retired social work administrator, died on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. He was 79.
He was born on Jan. 1, 1940. He was the second of three children born to the late Gladys and Napoleon Foster. He grew up in Camden, New Jersey, and matriculated through the Camden public school system, attending H.B. Wilson Elementary, Hatch Junior High and graduating from Camden High School in 1957.
He maintained an inseparable relationship with his brother, the late N. Thomas Foster, until his brother died on Sept. 8, 1984. He and his brother studied diligently together in school.
In tandem with Foster’s scholastics were two other areas of interest — sports and music. He had an appetite for playing baseball, football and softball. He played as often as possible and was loyal to some of the worst baseball teams of his time.
However, music was his heart. At the age of 7, he began his formative training with Ethel V. Howard of Camden. His interest in music compelled him to attend the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music. He studied the challenging works of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. Foster became curious about jazz and the works of notable musicians such as Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson.
The Foster family welcomed a baby girl, Ann, when he was 12 years old. Foster and his sister had a great love for each other.
At the age of 13, Foster became interested in the pipe organ. He studied with Frank Hoxter and, not long after, accepted a position as an organist at Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In 1961, he became the organist and choral director at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church. He also played for other churches including New Wesley AME Zion Church in Camden, Ferry Avenue Methodist Church in Camden, Mt. Ephraim Baptist Church, St. Matthew AME Church, Tindley Temple United Methodist Church and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. These church experiences, along with his aural skills, led him to compose music.
Foster’s first years of employment were as a postal worker in Camden. He attended Temple University, where he was inducted in the Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he worked in Camden County as a social worker.
Foster earned a master’s degree in social work administration at Rutgers University in 1972. After he acquired his master’s, Foster’s career advanced in the School District of Philadelphia, where he worked as a social work administrator. He retired with more than 30 years of service.
During his collegiate career, he struck up a friendship with Gwendolyn Winston, which led to courtship. He was baptized in 1962 as a Seventh-day Adventist. A year later, he married Gwendolyn on June 30, 1963. Three children were born to their union.
Foster composed a hymn titled “I Lay My Sins on Jesus,” which is now recognized as one of the most beloved hymns of all faiths. The hymn is published in the “Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal” and the new “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism Hymnal.”
Foster was given the distinction of being a guest organist for two World General Conferences of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He also traveled throughout Europe, Russia, Asia and the Caribbean for the cause of evangelism. His music ministry includes recordings from the 1970s to several CDs in the 1990s and the early 2000s.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother; brother-in-law, William H. Winston; nephews, Robert Foster and Michael Foster; and son, Allen W. Foster Jr.
In addition to his wife and sister, he is survived by: his daughters, Joya (Lysle Follett III) and Angela (Maurice Griffin); brother-in-law, James Winston (Jacqueline Brooks); grandchildren, Maurice Griffin, Kayla Griffin, Kennedy Griffin, Allyn Follette and Lysle Follett IV; nephews, Tom Foster (Cheri), Jeremy Winston (Angelique), James “Rick” Winston (Carolyn), Gawin “Rex” Flynn and Chris Winston; nieces, Jennifer Winston-Saunders (Raymond Saunders IV); and other relatives and friends.
Services were held Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. at Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1437 Christian St. Burial was in George Washington Memorial Park.
James L. Morse Funeral Home handled the arrangements.