The following post this month is written by board member John C. Murray in memory of his sister, Kathy Foster Friesen.
Kathleen Murray was born on July 27, 1959. I became her little brother two years later. It was not always easy growing up in the shadow of an older sibling with so many talents and interests. It seemed she excelled in anything she put her mind to, especially reading, biology and music. It would have been more difficult for me if she had not also excelled in loving kindness and compassion toward others, including me.
On April 9, 1983, she married John Foster. John’s playful and vivid curiosity expanded her world to include botanical gardens, travel, computers (as they were first being developed), the aviation industry, corporate leadership and logistics. John also brought the gift of a large extended family and close friends. These became Kathleen’s family and friends. She dearly loved them.
When the dream of Menno-Clinic India was born in the hearts of Subbarao and Ogla Yarlagadda, they invited me to serve as the first chair of the board of directors to help make the vision and reality. John and Kathleen were early and strong supporters of the Clinic, even when it was still in the visioning stage. When our family connection to India expanded to include the adoption of our daughter, John and Kathleen provided frequent flier miles and finances to assist us in the journey of bringing Meghana home.
Tragically, John died suddenly of a heart attack at age 47 on January 9, 2002. His memorial service was only a week before I joined a group traveling to India. On that trip, we celebrated the dedication and opening of Menno-Clinic India—the dream had become a reality. Kathleen and the Foster family designated Menno-Clinic India as the recipient of gifts in memory of John’s life. Subbarao and Olga, moved by their generosity and commitment to the clinic, named the lab “John Foster Memorial Lab.”
Over the years, Kathleen and other members of the Foster family continued to contribute to the work of Menno-Clinic India to support the daily work of the lab and the upgrading of the equipment. Just a few years ago, when I was visiting the clinic I found a picture in the lab that I had left in 2002. It was a pictur
e of John along with his mother Rose Foster.
A little more than a year after John’s death, Kathleen married Jon Friesen. Her “second Jon” (who some of us think needs a spelling lesson) embraced all parts of Kathleen’s life, including John Foster, the Foster family and Menno-Clinic India. Jon’s interest in India was a natural connection since his father had grown up in India, the child of missionary parents. Jon joined Kathleen in strong support of the clinic.
In June 2014, Kathleen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She journeyed with this disease and its regimen of treatments for nearly 4 years. She died on November 12, 2017. Menno-Clinic India was one of the designations for memorials. Her legacy of loving kindness and compassion toward others lives on. In death, she rejoined John Foster. Her name was added to his on the sign above the door to the lab.
Like many of the supporters of Menno-Clinic India, she was never able to fulfill her dream of visiting the clinic and meeting the people that she heard so many stories about. Yet her generosity, along with that of the Foster and Friesen families, is leaving a testimony of loving kindness and compassion that is touching the hearts and lives of many. I grieve deeply in my sister’s death, just as I grieve John’s before her. But, I celebrate that their legacy lives on in the hearts and lives of others, including the staff and patients of Menno-Clinic India.
–John C. Murray