Several in East Toledo called her “Grandma.”
Others called her “Mom.”
Alice Foster, 73, had no children, but she treated everyone who walked into the 7-Eleven at 1321 Navarre Ave. like family. She worked at the convenience store for more than 40 years.
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Mrs. Foster died Tuesday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after she had a massive heart attack that caused her to stop breathing, family said.
Several members of the community are devastated by her death, friends and family members told The Blade in interviews and at her burial service this week.
She watched children grow up and go on to have their own children, Toledo Police Officer Rick Trevino said. She offered an ear to listen, but she was also a witty woman who was quick to correct any wrong action.
Her compassion was contagious. Customers would come into the store in a terrible mood, but they would leave with a smile.
“If you grew up on the East side or you were anywhere around that store, you knew Alice,” Officer Trevino said.
Officer Trevino grew up going to play video games at the 7-Eleven, but he also spent a large chunk of his career patrolling the area. He frequently stopped to see Mrs. Foster, who he said became like a second mother to him.
It’s the same for other officers, co-workers, customers, neighbors, and friends.
Leaving a lasting impression
Tania Whitten leaned her head on a co-worker’s shoulder. Tears poured from her eyes as she listened Thursday to memories shared at the burial service at Lake Township Cemetery, Millbury, Ohio, for her 7-Eleven co-worker of nearly 20 years.
Officer Trevino walked over and embraced Ms. Whitten in a long hug.
“We’re here to celebrate the life she lived,” a friend said. Those in attendance shook their head, agreeing.
A woman shared a story about a time she thought about stealing candy as a child. It took a simple look from Mrs. Foster to quickly change her mind.
“She never knew how much she was cared about, but now everyone is coming out of the woodwork,” said 7-Eleven manager Dave Fournier.
Mrs. Foster trained Ms. Whitten, teaching her how to speak with customers and handle certain situations. On the flip side, Ms. Whitten taught her co-worker the changes in technology, especially with the updates in cash registers.
“She wasn’t just a co-worker to me, she was a grandmother,” said 7-Eleven employee Breann Zunk. “My grandmother died a long time ago. She was there for me during any emotional times to lean on and help guide in what I should do.”
Mrs. Foster was described as a dedicated employee — showing up on time, working extra, and even working when she was ill. She remembered her customers’ names, their problems, their struggles, and their accomplishments.
Customers entered the store earlier this week, some crying when they learned the news about her death. One longtime customer, Denny Whaley, said he will miss the conversations he had with her.
She took in stray dogs. She carried spare change in her pocket.
“She was always willing to give someone a couple bucks, hoping that it would make a difference, hoping [someone] would get off the street,” Ms. Whitten said.
Mrs. Foster’s last day of work was Oct. 23, two days before she went into the hospital. Mrs. Foster had the medical emergency Oct. 25 at her home. She was able to call her neighbor, also described as her best friend, Anne Brinkman, who called emergency crews.
While she was in the hospital, co-workers joked Mrs. Foster would be angry with her boss for taking her off the schedule for the next week.
“That was her, though,” Ms. Whitten said.
So many, including Toledo police officers, whom she befriended over the years, visited her during her hospital stay.
An out-of-town cousin, Brenda Serdar, handled the funeral arrangements. Mrs. Foster did not have family nearby. Her husband, Bill, died about eight years ago.
Her family were her three dogs, co-workers, and customers.
“We wanted to pay our respects and say our goodbyes and our prayers,” said Toledo Police Officer Dave Baertschi. “Personally, that’s one of those things we wanted to do.”
Friend Diana Elsea was in awe by how many Toledo police officers came to the hospital and later to Mrs. Foster’s home. Several officers took a memento to remember their favorite 7-Eleven attendant.
7-Eleven store manager David Fournier, 2nd from left, attends the funeral for his longtime store employee Alice Foster at Lake Township Cemetery in Millbury, Ohio.
“I think it’s great,” Ms. Elsea said. “It shows the officers really do care about the public. A lot of people bash them. A lot of people think they’re out to get you, but they’re not. They do care.”
On her off days, Mrs. Foster enjoyed taking her dogs for walks. She and Ms. Brinkman sat on their opposite porches and people-watched.
“It was like a comedy routine,” Ms. Brinkman said.
Making a difference
Officer Trevino saw first-hand how rude some customers could be to Mrs. Foster, but she never wavered from being courteous. He learned lessons from her that he applied in his role as an officer.
“She always said, ‘If you treat people fair, it will come back to you. If you treat them fair, they’ll treat you fair,’” he recalled. “Once I got on the job, I knew what she meant because if you respect people, they’ll give it to you, no matter how much of a hardened criminal it is.”
Officer Trevino, a field training officer who now serves as a school resource officer, was in charge of training rookie officers. On day one, he took them to 7-Eleven to meet Mrs. Foster. She was a great source of information, police said.
“It was always nice to see her car [in the parking lot,]” said Toledo police officer Amy Shaner. “If you’re having a bad day, Alice is there. Christmas time, Alice is there. It’s kind of like always having someone there.”
The 7-Eleven store is in the center of the community, situated among rows of houses. Customers frequently walk to the convenience store, picking up milk, candy, or lottery tickets.
They also know where they can find a police officer. Often, area residents called the store to ask if an officer was present so they could speak to one. If they didn’t feel comfortable speaking to an officer, they would sometimes talk to Mrs. Foster about the problem.
“We need a lot more Alices,” said Mr. Fournier.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Toledo Humane Society in honor of Mrs. Foster’s love of animals.
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