Buford Franklin Foster, at the age of 93, passed away from natural causes on Monday, August 27, 2012 at the Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach Missouri. He resided at his home of many years on Pelican Point, near Camdenton Missouri. Buford was born in his family farm home located near Freedom Missouri on January 15, 1919 to Clyde and Margerie Foster. He is survived by one sister, Nevin Baker, his two sons, Dan Foster and his wife Nickie, Andy Foster and his wife Tarra, two daughters, Janny Drover and her husband Gary and Josie Mantle. His wife Anna May and oldest daughter, Becky Risner preceded him in death as well as his older sister Genevieve Jones. Buford had fourteen grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and literally hundreds of close friends and acquaintances that dearly benefited by his presence.
The Foster family settled in the area in the 1830’s making Buford a fifth generation native to the Ozarks. He graduated from Richland High School in Richland Missouri in the 1930’s and was recognized in his junior and senior years for his assistance in driving the school bus into Richland from Montreal each day. He grew up working the family farm which was located on the Dry Glaze River near Montreal Missouri and later in the early 1940’s pursued a career as a Millwright/Rigger helping to build facilities at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri and later at Granite City Steel in Granite City Illinois. It was there at Granite City Steel, where in 1942 he met Anna May Aerne, who was working at the plant as an industrial nurse. They later married on February 16, 1943 and after a year of living in Granite City they moved to Camdenton Missouri and began managing the Night Hawk Cafe.
Two years later in 1945, Buford and Anna May purchased the Night Hawk and as Co-owners they operated and successfully managed all aspects of this restaurant for the next 40 years. However, this was just the core center of Buford’s contributions to the Lake of the Ozarks community. With the additions of a banquet hall named ”The Rodeo Room”, a bowling alley, and a gift shop Buford over the years went on to expand their restaurant into a facility that literally made the Night Hawk complex a ‘melting pot’ for commerce in the lake community.
Buford successfully lead endeavors such as one, the children’s square dancing group called the “Lake of the Ozark Tadpoles” who regularly appeared on the nationally televised program “The Ozark Jubilee starring Red Foley” in the 1950’s; two, the “Heart of America Square Dance Festival” which successfully attracted thousands of couples and their families to the lake area for 25 years; three, the beginning of the Lake Park camp ground, pavilion and marina, which in itself became a lake area recreational gathering location for travelers and local folks alike; four, authored the book “THAT’S THE WAY IT WAS” that has been widely distributed around the lake and featured short stories about his experiences while growing up in and around the Kinderhook area; and five, it was with great pride in his later years that he was the longest standing member of the Linn Creek Lodge#152 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. One of his prouder moments was being elected Rajah in 1970 in the Lake of the Ozarks Shrine Club.
In other areas, Buford took the lead or participated in the establishment of the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Association, which evolved into the Lake of the Ozarks Visitors Bureau, the Marine Dealers Association, the Camdenton Airport Expansion Committee, the Camdenton Industrial Development Committee and in the autumn of his time as a spokesmen for the Lake area, met with Senators in Washington DC to bring Union Electric & The Corps Of Engineers together in establishing a dialog to determine lake level management at the Lake of the Ozarks.
During all this time Buford also managed to raise his five children, all of whom went on to take prominent leadership rolls in their communities here in the state of Missouri as Doctors, Nurses, Engineers, Business Owners and Real Estate Brokers. Their success, he has said, was his greatest accomplishment. “We raised a family of Chief’s is what we did”. This is what he frequently said.
Buford Foster was a visionary, an entertainer, an organizer, and a leader of community and private affairs. He was a good friend, a supporting brother and a loving husband of 54 years. He was a wonderful father, a pampering grandfather and storytelling great grandfather who will be dearly missed by his many friends and family.
We have lost a Lake Area Legend. And, as his book title reads…
“THAT’S THE WAY IT WAS”