Obituary: Jane S. Foster, 96, Former Pendulum Co-Owner

by | Sep 10, 2019

Anyone who ever worked for or had anything to do with the R. I. Pendulum in the years that it was owned by William A. Foster — the times I like to call the Fosterian Epoch, 1963-1990 — understood that it was when the newspaper best fulfilled its role in the social structure of the town: owned in town, run by the owners who lived in town and took an interest in the town, people whose children went to school in town. 

From Mark Thompson: I’m guessing this is the 15th anniversary of the Fosters’ ownership of the Pendulum, which would make this a 1979 photo. From left, Olga Wilcox, secretary; Joanne Bowen, typesetter; Billy Cookson, printer; Jane Foster, “bookkeeper”; Ginger Bentsen, ad sales; Bobbye Ashworth, chief typesetter; Jimmy Powers, printer; William Foster, publisher; Tony Scelsa, artist.

Those of us fortunate enough to work for the newspaper in those years knew and understood that Bill Foster (WAF) was able to tend to the business of newspapering as well as he did was because his wife Jane Foster always had his back, freeing him to do what he had to do. A partner in every sense of the word, Jane was at home tending to the children and household but she was also the bookkeeper and paid the bills. She was an integral part of the newspaper. Additionally, she operated the local Meals on Wheels program for several years and was an active member of the First Baptist Church.

When the kids aged out of the house, the Fosters sold their home and newspaper and enjoyed a few years in Florida retirement. When Bill passed away in 2012, Jane went west to Washington State to be near three of her five children, Anne, John, and David. Mark and Beth remained here in Southern New England.  

Sadly, a life long lived very well has come to an end and Jane Foster, at age 96, will be coming back east to rejoin Bill here in East Greenwich once again. There will be a memorial service at First Baptist Church. Peirce Street, on November 2nd at 11 a.m. Please join her family in welcoming her back to East Greenwich. — Alan F. Clarke

Jane Shaw (Viall) Foster, who with her husband William co-owned the Rhode Island (now East Greenwich) Pendulum weekly newspaper in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, from 1964 to 1984, died September 6, 2019, at a retirement home in Yelm, Washington. She was 96.

During more than 30 years in Rhode Island, she was an active member of the First Baptist Church in East Greenwich, where she sang in the choir and served a term as the church’s first woman president. She was the East Greenwich volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island for 20 years.

A talented vocalist, she sang for eight years with the Choralettes, a professional trio that entertained throughout New England. She also performed as a soloist and as a cast member for the Savoyards, a Rhode Island choral group specializing in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

Before relocating to Rhode Island in 1959, she lived in Framingham, Massachusetts. She was born there on May 18, 1923, one of five children of Sumner W. Viall Sr. and Tamer England (Shaw) Viall. 

In retirement, Jane and Bill Foster lived in Bradenton, Florida, for 20 years. After Bill Foster died in 2012, Jane moved to Yelm, Washington, in 2013. She is survived by her five children and their spouses: Anne Foster (John Levesque) of Seattle, Washington; Mark Foster (Michele) of Cranston, Rhode Island; John “J.W.” Foster (Nicki) of Yelm, Washington; David Parker Foster (Julia Sokoloff) of Olympia, Washington, and Beth McCormick (Paul) of Higganum, Connecticut; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

First Baptist Church, 30 Peirce St., East Greenwich, will host a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday, November 2. Gifts to the church ( or Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island in her name are welcomed. Or, you could subscribe to your local newspaper.

The photos below and the black-and-white photo above courtesy of Mark Thompson. 

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Joan Chadwell
Joan Chadwell
September 10, 2019 2:29 pm

Having worked at the Pendulum from 1972-1982 i remember Jane Foster as a lovely woman. She surely gave back to the community in many ways. Now in Heaven with Bill they are together once again. RIP.

JW Foster
JW Foster
September 13, 2019 10:14 am
Reply to  Joan Chadwell

Thank you Joan.

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson
September 10, 2019 8:45 pm

As sure as Bill Foster was the heart of the Rhode Island Pendulum from 1964 to 1988, his bride, Jane, was its backbone. Running a small town paper is a hard-scrabble life, and I remember Mr. Foster telling me, during my off-and-on-years there from 1970 to 1978, how he never could have done it without her. His favorite tale involved the force shield she gave him. With Bill responsible for the weekly paper’s content, he didn’t need to worry about local merchants who had failed to pay their bills on time (and there were many). He’d run into them at Rotary meetings, delightfully oblivious to which fellow members were in arrears. The arrangement served as a flywheel that allowed the Pendulum to keep swinging freely, without the editor worrying about who owed what. It made for a splendid partnership, and a union that served East Greenwich well for a quarter century. Thank you, Mrs. Foster. 1923-2019. R.I.P.—Rest In Peace, and Rhode Island Pendulum.

JW Foster
JW Foster
September 13, 2019 10:15 am
Reply to  Mark Thompson

Mark, you were as much a part of that family as anyone. It was a great time to live in EG.

September 10, 2019 9:50 pm

Why did most of kids relocate in Washington State…very odd and or interesting…I recall attending EGHS with son John who later attended Rocky Hill…my early journalism excursions i cl articles for pendulum until I discovered the pay was abysmal.

JW Foster
JW Foster
September 13, 2019 10:18 am
Reply to  Charles

Hi Charles, job opportunities and the climate drew us to the great NorthWET.

Laura Sullivan
Laura Sullivan
September 12, 2019 11:15 am

What wonderful tributes, and memory-tugging photos! Jane, and her husband, Bill, represent a special era in East Greenwich. Before there was the Internet, social media, and a relentless barrage of information assailing reason, and our senses, there was the newspaper (and, thankfully there are still newspapers). However, here in East Greenwich, the weekly publishing the The Rhode Island Pendulum was something eagerly anticipated. From the Nation’s Bicentennial, to our Town’s Tercentenary, to the bar scenes, to the police infighting, and so much more – the Pendulum provided a still point our turning world to deliver what was happening here in Town, up close and personal. Seeing Judy Bailey and Nancy Lemoi’s picture reminded me of their weekly column, telling us of the doings in Frenchtown. The Santos family – Bobby, Paul and mom Evelyn, were the heart of Main Street, and the Fire Department. Olga – an East Greenwich Academy graduate (like my own mother), was always a friendly face at the Pendulum office. I’ll always remember editor Mark Thompson, hawking the Tercentenary Book at the live reenactment on Eldredge Field, telling us to buy two of them, so we could read it in stereo.

As it happened, on the morning of April 9, 1980, I was on a northbound Amtrak train, bound for Boston, when it stopped at East Greenwich (which had a working station stop at that time). From the window I could see the smouldering ruins of the Pendulum office on London Street, in the aftermath of the fire. So very sad, and, in a sense, the end of that era, even as the office moved to Main Street.

So, Blessings and RIP indeed to Jane Foster, as her final edition rolls off the press.

JW Foster
JW Foster
September 13, 2019 10:19 am
Reply to  Laura Sullivan

Thank you Laura.

David Foster
David Foster
September 13, 2019 1:12 pm

Adding to Mark Thompson’s comment about Jane’s bill collecting prowess: She loved to tell about her secret weapon for dealing with delinquent accounts. It was the handwritten note at the bottom of the bill. “You probably missed this one, Paul,” or “Hope you and Barbara and the kids are well,” or “See you in church!” It worked like a charm, Mom said.


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