William Foster

Obituary of William L. Foster

William “Bill” Leonard Foster, 71, of Syracuse, surrounded by his loving family, died peacefully Sunday, December 10, 2023. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon, Saturday, December 16 at St. Alphonsus Church. The Rev. Louis Vasile will celebrate the Mass. Calling hours will be held at the church from 10 to 11:45 a.m. Saturday, prior to the Mass. Burial will be in the family plot at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Auburn. Bill was born March 25, 1952, the second child of Robert and Alice O’Brien Foster’s five children. He was an easy-going, sociable son, brother, and uncle who had a wide circle of friends in Syracuse, where he lived and practiced law for decades. He recently had moved to his hometown of Auburn, living in the family’s Anna Street home, which was built by his great-grandfather William Shaw. Bill, or “Billy” as he was affectionately called by his family, grew up in a close-knit Irish Catholic family that instilled in him the importance of family and faith. He was named for his great-uncle, Monsignor William Leonard Shaw, who died December 11, 1980 and was a brother to his maternal grandmother. Growing up, Bill and his family visited “Uncle Bill” every summer at his Monroe MI parish. Msgr. Shaw taught young Bill to play golf – a sport he enjoyed throughout his life – and took him to baseball games in nearby Detroit. Bill also learned to be an altar server during the family’s Michigan visits. Bill was a graduate of St. Alphonsus Catholic School and a 1970 graduate of Mt. Carmel High School, where he played football and basketball. While at Mt. Carmel, he earned the nickname “Fireball” because he loved the red-hot candies and often shared them with classmates. He also played on city baseball teams, pitching a no-hitter once in Little League final playoffs. In 1974, Bill graduated from St. Bonaventure University in Olean. Throughout his life, he was an ardent supporter of his alma mater, reuniting informally with “Da Bears,” a group of about a dozen classmates mostly from his freshman floor in Devereux Hall where his nickname was “Bill City.” No matter what the weather, Bill never missed Bonnie’s basketball games. He and another alum and close friend, Jim Price, shared rides to the games for years, often traveling through blustery snowstorms. His nieces and nephews enjoyed going to games with him, too, including stopping for a quick bite to eat at Angee’s before gametime. Jim remained a faithful friend, visiting Bill often in Auburn and bringing Bill’s favorite goodies from Harrison Bakery in Syracuse. In 1977, Bill earned his Master’s Degree in Social Work from Syracuse University. He worked for the Onondaga County Department of Social Services as a caseworker for several years before deciding to pursue a law degree. He graduated in 1982 from Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law where his brother, Bob, a late Penn Yan attorney, also earned his law degree. The two brothers were close, always sitting together on either end of a couch at family gatherings, usually “talking law.” Bill was admitted to the Bar in 1984. He returned to Syracuse to private law practice for the next nearly 40 years. His practice included trusts and estates, personal injury, criminal law, and a great deal of pro bono work. Throughout his life, Bill was very committed to helping the marginalized and underprivileged in his community, and always did so in a quiet, intelligent, effective, understated way. Friends say that, even in college, he was known for befriending those in need. Never one to seek the limelight, Bill, nonetheless, was chosen as the Eastwood Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year award - twice - for his community work in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse where he lived and worked. Bill was a wonderful uncle, attending the sporting events, concerts, plays, and recitals of his three nieces and two nephews. He also enjoyed golf and Syracuse basketball games with them and never missed a birthday or special occasion. He liked clipping newspaper articles they might find interesting, and sending them through the mail with a typewritten note. Bill’s Catholic faith was very important to him. While in Syracuse, he was a member of Blessed Sacrament Church and often helped with weekly Bingo games there. He is survived by his three sisters: Mary (William) Rowe, Cheryl Foster, and Laura (Douglas) Cuthbert, all of Auburn; his sister-in-law, Carolyn Foster of Penn Yan; his nieces and nephews: Kara Foster of North Carolina; Megan (Ryan) Barkley of Victor; and John (Heather) Foster of Canandaigua; Connor Cuthbert of Washington DC and Ailish Cuthbert of Auburn; two great-nephews, Graham and Miles Barkley; several cousins, and many friends. Bill was predeceased by his parents; brother, Bob Foster, in 2021; and cousin, Barbara “Bonnie” Dellostritto, of Auburn. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Bonaventure University – Office of Advancement, P.O. Box 2519, 3261 West State Road, St. Bonaventure NY 14778. Attention: The Bonaventure Fund, the William Foster Memorial.