By Sterling McGinn
The late Sidney D. Foster always knew the true beauty of the area, and strived to make it even more beautiful. His community-minded spirit should never be forgotten. He certainly had great pride in Newberry. For more than 50 years, his humanitarian efforts and civic interests helped make Newberry a pleasant and interesting home.
Foster was born and raised here and was a member of a pioneer family. He graduated from Newberry High School, and returned to Newberry after attending college.
He came back to operate Foster’s Hardware, a store we still have today. Sid married Martha McMahon, and the couple had two children; James and Carole.
Foster spent the rest of his life serving the people of the town he loved. He served as mayor. He was a businessman. He always put the Newberry community first.
He was a key influencer in getting the Joy family interested in building a hospital here. Monetary contributions from their Joy Foundation greatly assisted in funding the project. Foster took great pride in his role in assisting with the establishment of Helen Newberry Joy Hospital.
But it wasn’t all good here.
Dilapidated buildings, junk vehicles, and trash became common in town, and minimizing the beauty of the area. Newberry citizens knew change needed to come quickly.
In October of 1969, Citizens for a Better Luce County was organized. Foster became the chairman of the new group, and he paved the way to a successful cleanup.
After a consultation by Mrs. Frances Pletz, who described Newberry as neither pretty nor complimentary, the committee got to work. Their goal was to remove all uninhabited and dilapidated buildings, broken-down fences and billboards, and everything that was an eyesore.
Nearly the whole town pitched in to assist. From school children to older adults, there was something for everyone to do.
The workers removed 200 truckloads of garbage and rubbish from the yards, streets and alleys. More than 60 dilapidated buildings were burned to make green space. It was a huge effort.
Help came from the Newberry Village Council, schools, churches, the Newberry Fire Department, Michigan Conservation Department and the state health department.
A grateful Newberry resident nominated Foster for a Keep Michigan Beautiful award in 1971. Foster was selected, but too humble for recognition. He requested the award be presented to everyone who worked on the massive clean-up.
Sid was one of those special people who never wanted recognition. Even better, his life accomplishments were all directed to the community. He did it for Newberry.
After his death, the community remembered his efforts to keep Newberry and Luce County beautiful and clean. For many years, his legacy was honored each year with a cleanup day in his name.
Unfortunately, that special yearly project has disappeared.
I realize that in our current era, a project of such magnitude as the one in 1970 would be highly unlikely. However, I really believe it is time we do something to clean up Luce County, and help the local environment.
I grew up in Newberry. I am proud of my hometown, and I hope to never leave it. Like Mr. Foster, I recognize and respect the true beauty of our area. You must see it, too.
I am asking for help from my fellow citizens.
In small ways we can all do our part in beautifying Luce County, by picking up a piece of trash from our yards, alleys and streets. We have a dumpster where scrap metal can be deposited, which in turn helps with restoring our beloved Christmas decorations.
Help a friend or neighbor paint their fence or shed. There are so many things we can do as a community to improve its appearance. If all of us work together and clean up our yards, we can achieve this goal.
I would like to see Newberry hold another cleanup day in honor of the late Sid Foster, and bring back the annual clean-up, too. I am willing to lead the cause, but I will need your help.
We’ll need to team up to clean and restore our community. If you or your business can help, contact me at LuceCountycleanup@gmail.com. Let’s set a date for sometime this summer; please stay tuned.
Sid did this for Newberry decades ago. Now, let’s do it for Sid!