ANNIE FOSTER's porch in West Philadelphia was the neighborhood meeting place.

Adults and children gathered there to be close to the woman whom many called the "Mayor of 57th Street," a woman who epitomized the essence of neighborliness, whose hand was always out and whose door was always open for whoever needed her special brand of love and compassion.

Annie especially loved children. "She was the unofficial godmother for old and young children in her neigborhood," her family said.

Annie Clara Atkins Foster, a 30-plus-year employee of a ladies- sportswear company, a community activist, a devoted churchwoman and a dedicated family matriarch, died of complications of a stroke April 30. She had celebrated her 88th birthday on April 25.

"Annie's son's friends became her kids too," her family said. "His school chums, neighborhood playmates, frat brothers and professional colleagues were always in and out of her house. Even after her son married and moved out, his friends continued to stop by just to check on 'Mom Foster.'??"

Her son, Joseph Foster Jr., said his mother's commitment to her neighborhood was something she lived for. "She was dedicated to young and old," he said. But, he said, his mother had a frisky side. "She loved to joke and laugh," he said.

Annie was born in Eufaula, Ala., the second of the three daughters of Grace Shorter and Lawrence Sidney Atkins. She graduated from Van Buren High School in Eufaula in 1943, and later attended Alabama State Teacher's College in Montgomery for two years.

She then moved to Philadelphia to be with her mother, who had arrived earlier. Annie and a handsome World War II soldier, Joseph Tenille Foster Sr., from her hometown, eloped to Baltimore in 1944. They were married in a Victorian-style wedding chapel, her family said, and took up residence in West Philadelphia.

She studied cosmetology at Apex College in South Philadelphia and became a licensed hair stylist.

In 1946, she went to work for Queen Casuals of New York City on N. Broad Street as an order writer in the ladies-sportswear division. She rose to become customer-service manager and retired at age 62.

Annie worked hard to keep standards high in her neighborhood, where she helped organize the North 57th Street Block Club to help her do it.

Her spiritual journey began in Alabama, where she was baptized at the St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Eufaula. It was the church of her mother, Grace, and grandmother, Annie Shorter.

After moving to Philadelphia, she and her mother joined Wesley African Methodist Church in South Philadelphia. When her mother died in 1984, she joined St. Matthew AME Church, where she served as usher, supported the Greeter's Club and Women's Auxiliary, mentored younger women in the church, and ministered to family, friends and neighbors who did not have a church home.

Annie served on the community board of the Harambee Institute. She was an election poll watcher and was on the neighborhood watch team.

She was an expert with needle and thread and used to make her own dresses, and when the little ones came along , made hats and booties for babies.

Besides her son, she is survived by two grandsons.

Services: Were Friday. Burial was in Glenwood Memorial Gardens in Broomall. n

Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.