JoAnn Baldwin Foreman, 80, a mother and caregiver whose love for children was reflected in the large extended family that she and husband Gene nurtured in Berwyn, died Thursday, Nov. 2, of metastatic breast cancer at the couple's retirement home near Charlottesville, Va.
Mrs. Foreman, a strong, compassionate matriarch, lived a "caring, giving" life devoted to others in the best Christian and humanistic tradition, Foreman said friends had told him. Her love was limitless, extending to her offspring, grandchildren, and many children in foster care needing a home.
"JoAnn loved children, and they loved her," her husband said.
The Foremans' five children were born in the 1960s, and when the youngest, Nell Rose, reached age 10, Mrs. Foreman volunteered as a foster mother with the Children's Aid Society.
Over the next decade, she cared for a total of 11 foster children.
"Each child was supposed to be with us only a couple of weeks or so, ideally then to be reunited with the biological parents. In fact, about half of them stayed a year or more, as their ultimate custody became complicated," Foreman said.
Michelle and Kyle permanently joined the Foreman family when their custody status changed from fostered to adoptable. The Children's Aid Society gave Mrs. Foreman a plaque for her service to troubled families.
Born and reared in Little Rock, Mrs. Foreman was an acrobatic cheerleader for the Central High School Tigers, who dominated Arkansas football in the 1950s. She was a popular member of Central High's Class of 1955.
Mary Lou Medlock Malczycki, a childhood friend, said Mrs. Foreman lived on the street behind her. "She was my very first friend in life. We played together as little children and ended up in life with our children playing together. My heart is breaking over this," she said in an email.
"We grew up in the days when children could walk to the neighborhood grocery store or the neighborhood movie; we spent our days playing outside. One of our trips together to the neighborhood grocery store to return a glass milk bottle ended in our bright idea to take a shortcut and climb up an embankment," Malczycki said.
"The only problem was, I put the glass milk bottle under me and ended up with a deep cut on my knee. That scar is there today, and every time I see it, I think of JoAnn and smile."
Although Mrs. Foreman wasn't keen on sports other than high school football, that changed when, as a parent, she became an enthusiastic supporter of her daughters' age-group swimming and diving teams. The Little Rock YWCA honored her with a plaque in 1970 for her support.
Two daughters went on to become intercollegiate diving champions — Susan at the University of Virginia and Nell Rose at the University of Delaware.
Mrs. Foreman met her future husband in spring 1957, when he was a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette and she worked in the newspaper's advertising department. They married in December 1957 in Little Rock.
The Foremans moved to Berwyn in 1973 when Gene Foreman became managing editor of the Inquirer. In 2012, they retired to Virginia. Mrs. Foreman had battled cancer since early 2016.
In retirement, Mrs. Foreman continued to nurture her large brood and their children. Holidays were especially festive, with more than 20 gathered around the table.
"Our large extended family revolves around her. The grandchildren love spending time with her," Foreman said.
Besides her husband and children Kyle, Michelle, Nell Rose, and Susan Saliba, she is survived by son Harry; daughters Valerie Feinstein and Jo Rose; and 19 grandchildren.
Plans for services were pending.
Memorial gifts may be made to Team CMMD, a nonprofit of volunteers, runners, walkers, and cyclists committed to making a difference in the lives of those fighting cancer, at https://teamcmmd.kindful.com.