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Analyst Kenneth E. Foster, 51, Dies; Lost His Wife on 9/11

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2004; Page B07

Kenneth Edelle Foster, 51, a retired Army sergeant whose wife lost her life at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, died Oct. 10 at his home in Arlington, Tex., of pulmonary fibrosis and congestive heart failure. He had lived in the Washington area since 1972 and moved back to North Texas, where he grew up, in 2003.

A civilian Army policy analyst, Mr. Foster was working in his office in the Hoffman Building in Alexandria on Sept. 11 when he got word that a plane had hit the Pentagon, where his wife, Sandra Nadine Hill, had worked for 25 years. He jumped into his truck and raced toward the billowing black cloud he could see in the distance, going the wrong way on Interstate 95.

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He ended up spending nearly two days and nights helping rescue efforts while desperately searching for his wife. Because he wasn't supposed to be there, a woman gave him T-shirts from the Salvation Army and the Red Cross to wear so he could blend in with the rescuers.

Mr. Foster and his wife -- whom he affectionately called Duchess -- had met in 1985, when both worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon. They married in 1991. As a senior management officer with the agency, his wife worked in an office on the third floor of the E Ring, directly in the path of American Airlines Flight 77.

She had left two messages on her husband's voice mail at work that morning. "Something strange is happening," she said in one of the messages.

Mr. Foster told The Washington Post a few days later that she was probably calling to tell him about the World Trade Center attack. He called her back immediately, but he got her voice mail, which was unusual. Then he heard a woman in his office screaming that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

Mrs. Foster's body was found at her desk a week later; medical authorities told her husband that she had died instantly. She was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mr. Foster sank into a debilitating depression after his wife's death. He tried to commit suicide two months later on his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. After he survived a game of Russian roulette while home alone that day, he sought help and was admitted to the intensive care unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He then went to counseling twice a week, started reaching out to the many people concerned about him and decided to move back to Texas. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that staying in the Washington area meant he was dying slowly each day as he relived the events of Sept. 11.

He set up a $25,000 annual college scholarship named for his wife, given to a senior girl from a District public school. His wife, he told The Post in 2002, valued education above everything else.

Mr. Foster had planned to travel to Washington on Sept. 16 for the second annual fund-raising banquet in his wife's memory, where he planned to award another Sandra Nadine Hill Scholarship.

He also planned to attend the Monday night Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins game. He was an avid Cowboys fan; his wife was just as devoted to the Redskins. He was going to buy two tickets and leave one seat empty.

He was hospitalized shortly before he was to leave and was unable to make the trip.

Mr. Foster was born in Fort Worth and attended Draughn's Business College there for a year. He joined the Army in 1971, serving in Japan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. A Persian Gulf War veteran, he retired in 1993 and began his civilian position with the Army that same year.

Both Fosters were big basketball fans, and Mr. Foster often coached girls' summer-league basketball. His wife, who played basketball at Dunbar High School in the District, often sat on the bench beside him as his assistant. During the 2000-01 school year, he also worked as an unpaid coach with the girls' junior varsity basketball team at Wakefield High School in Arlington.

Mr. Foster's first marriage, to Paulette Foster, ended in divorce.

Survivors include two sons from his first marriage, Kyle Parrish Foster of Capitol Heights and Kellen Patrick Foster of Landover; his mother, Charlotte Anderson of Fort Worth; two brothers; and a sister.

Mr. Foster's friends and family were fully aware of the seriousness of his lung disease, which got worse after he lost his wife, but they don't believe his illness caused his death.

"He could have got over his physical ailments, I believe," his mother said, "but he just didn't want to live. He died of a broken heart. We all know that."


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