There’s no doubt about it — the world would be a better place if there was an Effie Foster in every town. Luckily, the one and only lives in Culpeper.
Ask anyone who knows Foster and they will quickly describe her as a compassionate, sincere and generous person who will gladly provide a helping hand to anyone in need.
Foster has a warm spot in her heart for senior citizens, for whom she provides rides to doctor appointments, picks up groceries, does laundry or simply sits beside them if they need that little bit of extra loving attention. Rosalie Arthur, one of her 12 children, said she cannot help but crack up when her mother says “‘they’re senior citizens so I need to help them.’” Some may say that Foster, 88, is a senior citizen herself but do not dare tell her that.
Then there are the famous, delicious pies. For decades, Foster has baked thousands of pies and provided them freely for volunteer fire department fundraisers, police department events, weddings, the Culpeper Senior Center, funerals and birthday parties. Or, if somebody’s spirits needed lifting, they got a pie.
Due to Foster’s everlasting goodwill, she was selected as the Culpeper Times 2020 Citizen of the Year. Joan Byrnes, who was one person to nominate Foster, said she will help anyone in need.
“If she hears of someone in need she will call her family members to seek donations of money, food, whatever the need may be. This is done discreetly and most others are not aware of what she does for others,” Byrnes said.
Chris Settle, Foster’s grandson, said she makes a litany of daily phone calls to check on a variety of people to see if they need anything.
“She’s not a part of any specific volunteer organization. She’s really a one-person army,” Settle said.
Friends and family say that if you ask her for a pie, believe you will get one. Usually, however, the pies appear unrequested. It is not unusual to see every surface in Foster’s kitchen covered with pies before a fire department fundraising event.
The Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Department and Auxiliary, which has received countless pies, composed a statement in which members said Foster “is a real gem and everyone who knows her loves her.” She has supported Brandy Station for as long as any member can remember. There are usually about six pies at bingo night and nearly 30 at fundraisers.
Foster has told the volunteers that “I made a pineapple upside-down cake just in case you needed it” or “I made you an extra chocolate meringue pie because I know it’s your favorite.” She also helps sell raffle tickets for carnivals and is the first in line at Brandy Station’s annual chicken dinners.
“We’re all better people just from knowing her,” the volunteers said.
Arthur said her mother has a genuine passion for anyone that needs help.
“She has never met a stranger. She is very into people, loves people and loves helping them,” Arthur said. “She has a big heart, she is very compassionate and has always had a heart to help people. She loves everybody and everybody loves her.”
Litsa Kambanellos, co-owner of the Chuck and Litsa’s South Main Cafe that Foster frequents, said her presence adds to the restaurant's family atmosphere. Echoing Foster’s other friends, Kambanellos described her as a sweet, loving woman who helps anybody in need.
In addition to strangers and friends who need help, Foster has plenty of love to spread among her family, which includes eight kids from her first marriage to Brown Settle and four step-children from Turner Foster, who she married when they were both widows. And do not tell Foster that the four from her second marriage are step-children.
“They’re her children, that's one of those positive features about her,” Arthur said.
Sherry Thronhill, who owns the Country Cafe where Forster makes weekly pie deliveries, noted that she inspires her family to give back to the community - and what a large family it is. Foster has 26 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Foster’s memory has not declined with age and she remembers the full names and birthdays of every last grandchild, who can expect a card or gift every year.
“She is really a once in a lifetime type of amazing person. These types of people don’t just come along every day. She always puts others above herself and I mean that very sincerely,” Settle said.
While there unfortunately can not be an Effie Foster in every town, there is no doubt she has made Culpeper a better place to live.
“Effie always puts everybody first, she always has,” Thornhill said. “Effie is Effie. You have Madonna, you have Oprah, you have Beyonce and you have Effie. And she’s awesome.”