Just as in prior years, twenty-one cookie-filled ice cream buckets covered the ping-pong table at 88-year-old Jack Foster’s house this past Christmas season, waiting to be delivered. Cookie making at Christmas time was a yearly tradition of Jack and his wife Lulu Foster of Miltonvale, Kansas. Lulu, also known as Ludie, died on June 7, 2010.
After Lulu’s death, Jack decided to continue the yearly cookie-making tradition after an adult granddaughter asked, “Are we going to have those white (butter ball) cookies again this year?”
Jack told her, “Well, I think I can do it!” Since that first year of baking cookies without Lulu, the number on his “cookie list” has grown. This past December, Jack baked and gave away 1,448 chocolate chip cookies, 1,284 butter ball cookies, 6 double batches of Chex mix, and pounds of peanut brittle.
Jack’s treats were given to his 7 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren, and a host of family members and friends. He also took cookies to the ICU staff at Salina Regional Hospital and a hospital volunteer in appreciation for their excellent care of Lulu before her death.
Jack and Ludie became childhood sweethearts when they were 13. They married at 18 and celebrated 62 anniversaries before Ludie’s death—a love affair of many years.
Jack and Ludie moved to Miltonvale in 1949 to help Jack’s parents, Joe and Mildred Foster, with his new telephone company which is now Twin Valley Telephone. Both Jack and Lulu worked for the phone company until their retirement in 1994.
Jack starts his baking project a few weeks before Christmas, armed with Lulu’s handwritten recipes, cookie sheets, pounds of flour, sugar, chocolate chips, English walnuts, butter, and powdered sugar to coat his freshly baked butter ball cookies. Jack also makes pounds of peanut brittle,
cooked just right with the use of a candy thermometer, and he bakes Chex mix in the oven.
So why does Jack continue a tradition that takes hours of mixing and baking? His daughter Penny told a reporter for the Salina Journal that her parents were rarely apart. Penny said they worked together at the telephone business all those years and baked cookies together every Christmas season.
After her mother’s death, Jack told Penny, “I’m still making the cookies,” and he took it to another level. Jack explains that his greatest pleasure for making the cookies “is keeping the memory of Lulu alive.” A December 11, 2016, Salina Journal article written by Gary Demuth told Jack and Lulu’s story in an article entitled “For the Love of Lulu.”
Since reading that article, I have thought about Jack and his cookie baking often. He has baked alone in memory of Lulu for seven years now. He usually begins his baking marathon the last week of November and finishes in time to deliver all the goodies before Christmas.
He bakes because he loved and continues to love Lulu. He bakes so she is not forgotten, and he bakes so those of us who loved Ludie will never forget her.
In the past 7 years since Lulu’s death, Jack has probably baked about 8,000-9,000 chocolate chip cookies and about 7,000 butter ball cookies, plus pounds of peanut brittle and Chex mix, all for the “Love of Lulu.” That’s a lot of mixing and baking! He has turned his love into action, giving others the pleasure of receiving a sweet treat in Lulu’s memory.
If you have lost a loved one, you too may want to keep their memory alive. Perhaps you could put the name of your loved one in the blank “For the love of ______.”
February is a month of love, sweethearts, and sweet memories of days gone by. Maybe it would be a good time for you, like Jack, to brighten the world of those around you. Maybe you could bake some cookies or pass on a kindness for “the love of” the one you love.
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice 709 Liberty Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator