by Marla Davis

As a representative of life skills requirements of a communicator, experiences for Gary Foster cut a wide swath throughout his life. When times were good, he thrived; and, when times were less than ideal, he rose to face the challenges.

During the difficult 1980s, he served as manager of the employment committee for STC Houston. His briefcase had “as many as 150 résumés” from all over the country crammed inside. Each resume was given his best shot at a suitable job match. “I feel like I contributed to success a couple of times,” he said modestly. In doing so, he developed a solid reputation for success with job seekers as well as potential employers.

Later, having been laid off from a company after 12 years as a proficient technical communicator, he began attending STC meetings regularly. By this time, the organization’s employment committee had gone to seed. Incoming president, George Slaughter, tapped Gary to set up an employment committee in the seed-rich, and soil-poor job market. He rolled up his sleeves and met with member Steve Cunningham, who had a hand in the daunting task of establishing early online employment features. With no figurative fertile topsoil, he began working the hardpan of the fields of Houston STC employment opportunities.

They began by contacting members with news of the employment committee revival. Gary dished out employment tips and recommendations during each meeting’s networking hour. He busied himself with compiling a successful online list of companies and agencies that hire communicators. Soon, companies were asking to be listed.

With the wind at his back, Gary put together a seminar, where job seekers rotated through a three-hour, four-station session. Volunteers provided individual coaching for interviews, networking, portfolio development, and résumé review. He built upon the success of the seminar, and went on to enlist more volunteers for future seminars, and eventually included salary surveys.

More recently, Gary began working for ThruBit as the company’s first technical writer. He documented “80- to 90-percent of the tools within one year” before announcing his retirement.

Friendly, reliable, and even-tempered, Gary was respected there. He was valued for his lifetime of skills in mechanical aptitude, and his keen ability to convey information to those who assembled electromechanical items. Fellow employees counted on Gary to pitch in “out back,” or on the floor when shorthanded or flummoxed by an aspect of tool assembly.

With a sense of responsibility to the company regarding replacements after his retirement, Gary assisted in connecting the company with job candidates. One was subsequently hired.

The company employees honored his departure with a retirement party with extra pizza, a cake, and further delighting him with a gift card for Cavender’s western apparel. His wife attended “coming all the way in from the country.” Even the most stoic employees were emotionally affected by Gary’s departure.

He timed his retirement announcement with completion of his residence on thirteen acres of rural land. The original houses on the property had burned down twice, leaving a concrete slab and some deteriorating livestock stalls. Gary and his wife lived in mobile housing on the land, building their retirement home a little at a time. Much bushwhacking reduced most of the obnoxious thorny overgrowth from twenty years of neglect.

The Fosters’ current home project is landscaping with sandstone pried from the quarry on the property. Both he and his wife have a place to pursue interests, such as his wife’s talent for etching eggshells. She favors emu eggs for the various subtle color layers.

And Gary does woodwork in his workshop. He prefers mesquite wood, specializing in custom pen and pencil sets, as well as detailed gunstocks. He can size a person up for a perfect match between balance, beauty, and utility in master crafting items for his customers.

In anticipation of demand for cattle as a means for landowners to retain agricultural tax exemptions, he placed four head of Dexter cattle on his land as a venture. Dexter cattle are small enough to place on “half the land required by normal cattle,” he says. “They are docile,” and “are good for meat.” “And they give good milk,” he adds.

He still has his boyhood wheat and cattle farm in Oklahoma, now managed by his cousin. Here in Texas he enjoys playing snooker, a billiards game (, in his snooker room upstairs, visiting with friends and family, and participating in local social activities.

Oh, and he is still the go-to guy with his pickup truck full of tools. When it comes to cranky old machinery and equipment way out in the countryside, there’s no reason to stop the music and go home.

Marla has twenty years as copywriter, marketing consultant, and package design for an independent entertainment corporation.

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