Walter C. Foulke, Jr., who practiced law in Auburn for nearly 60 years, joined his Lord and Savior on June 30, 2020. A member of the Poplar Ridge Society of Friends (Quakers) since the 1960s, he lived his life as Jesus taught, a servant of God devoted to service of others. He died peacefully in his home, a life complete, with his beloved wife Micheal by his side. He leaves behind four children: Evan and his wife Nancy, Kenton and his wife Svetlana, Llewellyn and his wife Colleen, and Richenda (Cindy) and her husband Marty, and fifteen grandchildren.
Walter grew up in Yardley PA, a Bucks County borough. He had an early passion for music and paid for his own lessons with the lead violinist of the Philadelphia orchestra, to learn classical violin (a hobby that he would continue in his old age, playing in the evenings, at occasional church services, and at gatherings with friends and family). He played football, basketball, and track. In 1946, he posted the second fastest time in the 400 meter dash in PA.
He left his childhood home on the Sunday following his high school graduation in 1946 and hitchhiked to North Conway, NH, as he was enthralled with the natural beauty of the northeastern forests. He worked and took time to explore the remote lakes and forests by way of canoe and hiking that summer before enlisting in the United States Navy. While not enthralled with military life, he represented his ship well by facing off against boxers from other ships whenever they came into port. After two years of service he was honorably discharged.
Taking advantage of the GI Bill, which paid for his tuition, he enrolled in Drexel Institute of Technology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and was hired by Eastman Kodak Co. as a chemical engineer in Rochester. After five years, encouraged by Kodak to attend law school and return in a management position, he enrolled in Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA.
Walter’s experience in the country setting of the Shenandoah Valley in Lexington changed his life. He earned his law degree there and met Micheal Sturgill, a student at James Madison University, who would become his wife in 1963, in Micheal’s majestic hometown of Chilhowie VA.
In 1962, seeking courtroom experience, Walter accepted temporary legal work in the Auburn, NY, office of Judge Kennard Underwood. In the judge’s office the day Walter arrived to be interviewed for the job, he met his first client. That was Lithgow Osborne, the publisher of the Auburn Citizen-Advertiser newspaper. Walter cited working for Osborne as an important reason that he chose not to return to Kodak and to be a country lawyer where he could make a difference in people’s lives. He purchased the Union Springs home where he and Micheal raised four children and where he passed away.
Eventually taking over Judge Underwood’s general law office, Walter practiced a wide variety of law (family law, trusts and estates, corporate law, negligence, trials, and commercial litigation). For many years, he used his plane and piloting license to handle cases, often constitutional ones, all over the East Coast.
As “a lawyer who gets attention through a patient presentation of ideas,” as one newspaper put it, Walter and a friend, businessman Morton Kahn, also of Union Springs, formed the Cayuga-Seneca Property Owners Association in 1977, and for several years Walter presided as the group tried to settle the Cayuga Indian Nation land claim out of court. Within three weeks after the association’s launch, nearly 2,000 people joined as members. Walter told reporters he was “extremely surprised” when 750 arrived at a Seneca Falls meeting, one of its first.
In his profession, he kept an eye on the ideals of justice and appealed to judges and juries to find a just resolution to any dilemma. He saw his work as a calling. He would often quote Mother Theresa and would repeat her advice to be holy in whatever your chosen line of work and to follow God’s calling. He worked in defense of the civil rights of migrants. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he, Mort Kahn, and Citizen-Advertiser reporter Walter Rewald stopped abuses of migrant workers at a migrant camp in King Ferry, the largest in New York state. In 1968, Rewald defied the camp’s no-trespassing sign to inspect allegations that the 1,000 migrants had too little to eat. Walter’s defense persuaded an appellate-appointed judge to overturn Rewald’s conviction. The camp declared bankruptcy and closed the next year.
Walter also represented various Cayuga County school districts, The Auburn Citizen, and many local Cayuga and Onondaga County businesses and individuals.
Walter always cherished his experience with the Great Books, classic texts of Western literature and philosophy. In Rochester in the 1950s, he was a founder and leader of the Rochester Area Great Groups Committee, chairing it in 1957. He loved contemplating, striving for, and writing about the classical ideals of justice, virtue, and wisdom. He was contemplative and found a connection to ideas and God through spending stents walking, canoeing and camping and seeing the beauty in nature.
He will always be remembered as the kind, loving, wise, and principled soul he was. He wrote poetry, often in regard to the beauty of God’s gifts and its guidance to the human soul. He lived to serve, educate, and to be kind to those around him. He followed his conscience and would always choose to follow what he saw was the true and right path. Material possessions mattered little to him, but were regarded as weighing down the soul. For years he wrote a weekly column on bird species he had studied and lectured frequently for the Audubon Society. He would relate his observations of nature to human nature and the importance of nourishing the soul. He was devoted to his family. He was always there for them, providing guidance, encouragement, advice from his own example, and moral direction.
He will be missed.
Public calling hours will take place Tuesday evening July 7 from 4-7 PM at Brew Funeral Home, 48 South St. Auburn NY (and a family private funeral will follow the next day).
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