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Foster John Blair II

March 6, 2024

Foster was born November 22, 1944, in Sanford, Florida. At the time his father Navy Lieutenant Foster John Blair was serving as a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station, Sanford Florida, after having served as a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater of World War II. His mother Catherine Johnson Blair was a talented artist as well as a devoted military wife and mother.

Like most military families during the 1940s and 1950s, Foster’s family moved frequently from one military base to another, so Foster grew up “all over” the United States and also in Puerto Rico and Spain. He attended and graduated from Roosevelt Roads High School at the U.S. Naval Station, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico and entered Yale in September 1962.

Foster was a member of the Yale Navy ROTC unit and took courses in navigation and military strategy as well as courses in his academic major Engineering and Applied Science, focusing on Electrical Engineering, Solid State Electronics and Metallurgy. In addition to Navy ROTC and a rigorous academic course load, Foster led an active social life at Yale and was the life of every party that he attended. He also used his engineering talents to repair an old, discarded black-and-white television set that he had found, and it was on that restored television set that Foster, his roommates and friends in Saybrook College watched the aftermath of the Kennedy Assassination on Foster’s 19th birthday, November 22, 1963.

Foster’s birthday November 22nd is also the Feast Day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Although Foster was not a singer and did not play a musical instrument, he had a musician’s ear and a love of music. He was an expert at designing and building audio sound systems “from scratch”. As a Yale undergraduate he had a part time job as a repairman at the Audio Den, a store near the Yale campus that sold radios, phonographs and vinyl records. Foster was an absolute purist when it came to sound quality and argued convincingly that vinyl records produce better, more realistic sound than 8-track tapes or CDs.

In the spring of 1966, during his senior year at Yale, Foster was one of the NROTC Midshipmen interviewed by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, known as “the Father of the Nuclear Navy”. Instead of selecting Foster for the Nuclear Submarine Service, the Admiral’s deputy assigned Foster to the Admiral’s headquarters technical staff at the Office of Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C.

After graduating from Yale in June 1966, Foster moved to Washington, D.C. to begin his career on Admiral Rickover’s staff. In 1967 the Navy sent Foster to the Bettis Atomic Reactor Engineering School in Pittsburgh where he earned a Certificate in Nuclear Engineering. After completing his military service in 1971, Foster continued his nuclear engineering career as a civilian employee of the Atomic Energy Commission, later renamed the Energy Research and Development Administration (“ERDA”) which is now the Department of Energy. He spent three years as Admiral Rickover’s field representative conducting periodic (and often unannounced) inspection tours of all U.S. Naval Shipyards from Pearl Harbor to Puget Sound to Groton, Connecticut, and numerous vendor facilities to assure that all the parts and systems met the Navy’s rigorous standards.

Foster always had stories to tell about Admiral Rickover’s high standards and dedication to excellence in science and engineering – qualities which Foster also exemplified.

Foster retired from Naval Reactors and from government service on January 3, 2001 and began a new career as a consultant for the Navy Quality Assurance Service, the Radiation, Detection, Indication and Computation (RADIAC) Service and later for Orbis, Inc., a veteran-focused firm supplying engineering, technical and consulting services to the Department of Defense and commercial clients, In all of these positions, Foster utilized his extensive knowledge of nuclear reactors, submarines, heat exchangers, metallurgy, welding, non-destructive testing, quality control and electronics. One of his notable consulting assignments for NASA focused on the search for alien life forms on the icy moons of Jupiter.

Foster was a man of many talents and many interests. His hobbies included designing and building state-of-the-art audio equipment and sound systems far more advanced than those that he repaired when he worked at the Audio Den as a Yale senior. He became a recognized expert in the restoration of vintage vacuum tube audio equipment and built a substantial side-business on eBay, building and repairing audio equipment for audiophiles throughout the United States. Other hobbies included designing, building and flying radio-controlled model airplanes and helicopters, some equipped with video cameras. Many of Foster’s Yale classmates remember his demonstration of one of his remote-controlled model airplanes at his 50th Yale reunion in 2016.

After living in the Washington, D. C. area for more than fifty years, in 2018 Foster and his wife Linda relocated to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, near Linda’s son and daughter-in-law Daniel and Tricia Loveday and their daughters Isabella and Aria. “Izzy” and “Ari” quickly became the joy of Foster’s life and delighted in spending time with him, hearing about his adventures on land, on the sea and in the air.

In February 2023, Foster and Linda watched from their deck in Myrtle Beach the now famous Chinese spy balloon that had entered U.S. airspace in late January and had flown across Alaska, western Canada and the continental United States before finally being shot down by the U.S. Air Force off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023.

During his last decade, Foster suffered from multiple medical challenges. He faced each of these challenges with the same analytical focus and determination that he applied so successfully during his career as an engineer. Against the odds Foster overcame each medical challenge until early 2024 when several conditions combined to drain his strength ….. but not his spirit. Even during his final illness, he continued to charm the pretty young nurses and to entertain and impress the hospital staff with his scientific and technical knowledge. In the early morning hours of March 6, 2024, Foster completed his earthly tour of duty, but his spirit lives on in all of those whose lives he touched.

Foster is survived by his wife Linda Montgomery Blair, three stepsons Daniel Loveday (Tricia) of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Donald Loveday (Lisa) of White Pine, Tennessee and David Loveday (Sophia) of Woodbine, Georgia; step-grandson Gracin Loveday and step-granddaughters Isabella Brooklyn Loveday, Aria Charlotte Loveday, Evelyn Fay Loveday and Penelope Rose Loveday; his sister Luana Catherine Blair Yamaguchi of New York City and numerous cousins, friends and Yale classmates all of whom remember his intellect, his many interests and his lively (and often risqué) sense of humor. Anyone who ever met Foster will never forget him.

— Linda Montgomery Blair