Small-Town Girl Found Laughs, Love In Big City

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It's very possible that Kay Foster has the most beautiful smile in town which makes sense, since she works as the office manager in a dentist's office.

The first thing any dental patient wants to see, of course, is what their own smile could look like. Put a two-toothed Bubba-type at that front desk and folks would likely avoid the place like plague.

Heck, Foster even smiles, and laughs heartily, as she tells the story of her first encounters with her husband of 25 years, Max Foster, the Roundup's long-time sports reporter which may not sound odd at all until you actually hear the stories.

The Fosters met in Tempe in a ... well, for the sake of propriety, let's call it an adult- beverage establishment.

"I was there with some people from work, and we were just sitting there, talking," Kay said, "when Max came up and says, 'Oh, I see you all met my ex-wife!' Then he turned to me and said, 'So did you get your child-support check?'

All of the people who had been talking to me just got up and moved. But I looked him right in the eye and said, 'Where'd you mail it from, Flagstaff?'"

Clearly, it was love at first sight for their senses of humor.

"I can't explain it," Foster continued, "but we got along from that first moment forward."

That's still a little hard to figure, considering one of the couple's very first dates.

"I thought we were going on this really romantic trip to a cabin in Heber. But when we get to the place, his father was there this old, gruff, retired railroad engineer. And we all ended up spending our whole time there cutting and loading wood. And Max's dad said to him, 'You better marry that one. She can carry wood!'"

Oooh, boy. Sounds like "Love Story II," doesn't it?

The big, jokingly proffered question around the Roundup offices, though, is this: What is it, exactly, that Kay Foster sees in her husband?

"Aw, man, I don't know. I guess bad habits are hard to break."

She laughs at this, naturally. But then still smiling she gets serious.

"Most people look at Max and see this big, tough-looking, rough-acting guy. But he's probably the most sensitive, caring person I have ever, ever been around."

Born in Louisiana, Mo., Kay Foster grew up across the Mississippi River in Barry, Ill., which from her description sounds like the perfect picture of Small Town, U.S.A.

"It was a farming town, surrounded by apple orchards. You could ride your bike everywhere. I'd ride over to grandma and grandpa's all the time. I had a terrific childhood."

And not a bad adulthood, either, not counting a singular disappointment.

"It was always my dream to become a flight attendant they called them stewardesses back then but one day while I was attending the classes, my dog broke his leg so I stayed home with him. I got in big trouble for that. And then I missed a big interview with American Airlines in Chicago. So I didn't become a stewardess."

Recalling this smashed hope, Foster laughs and smiles to the surprise of no one.

So instead of taking to the air, she returned to her home town and got a job as a pharmacist's assistant in an establishment which, from Foster's description, sounds like Small Town Drugstore, U.S.A.

"A lot of sick people in town came to see the pharmacist instead of the town doctor, because they trusted him more. We also carried veterinary supplies and medicines. It was exactly the kind of drug store that doesn't exist anywhere today."

An early marriage produced three children Kyle, now 40, Joy, 38, and Stacey, 30, all of whom now live in the Valley. After the family spent four years living in northern Illinois, a move to Phoenix in the early '60s was deemed in order for her daughter's allergies and the warmer weather.

Of the latter Arizona feature, Foster like countless other Midwestern immigrants got quite a bit more than she had bargained for.

"We lived in an apartment complex with a pool, so it was OK. But after two weeks, it was like when you've been on a vacation too long and you're really ready to go home," she recalled. "After a while, I even got tired of going out to the pool. I'd sit in the house, watch old movies on TV with the blinds down, and listen to the air conditioning units going on and off."

There, too, were important new lessons to be learned.

"I was a small-town girl who had never been to a mall. So it took me forever to catch on to the fact that, in Phoenix, you don't go buy groceries and then go wandering through the mall, because by the time you get home the milk is warm and the chicken's spoiled."

Kay's infamous first encounter with Max took place in 1975 and, within the year, they were married with five children, including Max's two sons from a previous marriage: Valley residents Gerry, now 35, and Ryan, 30.

All of their combined offspring have produced large volumes of Foster grandchildren. That fact, along with their residency which makes life in the Rim country the best place on Earth for a joyfully married pair of doting grandparents.

"Living here is perfect for a lot of reasons," Kay said. "But the best is that we're so close to our kids and grandchildren in the Valley but far enough away to occasionally appreciate them from a safe distance."

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