Approximately 80 people gathered in the Leverett Junior Common Room yesterday afternoon to celebrate the life of Brent J. Foster, a member of the Harvard class of '97 who died of cancer this July.
"Brent's life touched many people at Harvard," said E. Andrews Grinstead '97, his roommate. "He touched mine, and I was very thankful that he was my roommate and that Christ was the vision for his life.
Yesterday's religious tribute symbolized Foster's devotion to his religion and to the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship.
Family and friends shared memories of Foster during the service.
His older brother, Brian J. Foster, read excerpts from his brother's journal and a speech he had delivered to the Christian Fellowship last year.
A friend who offered her memories at the service said in a campus characterized by restlessness, Brent lived with...rest."
His memorial, too, was permeated by that atmosphere of placidity. Friends said jokes and humorous anecdotes represented Foster's generous sense of humor.
His wit was famous throughout Leverett House, according to House Master John E. Dowling '57.
To honor Foster's delight in humor, one friend shared a joke which played upon the Harvard-Yale rivalry. His roommates described high-strung games of Axis and Allies, which Foster, a history concentrator, always won.
A picture displayed Foster carrying his prosthetic leg behind his shoulders and hopping with what one friend called an "expression of rapturous joy" on his face.
In a written list given to his brother as his death neared. Foster requested "no feely-good messages" at his funeral.
He wanted mourners to forego traditional dark clothing and wear "bright. colorful clothes like autumn leaves."
He jotted "party favors?" and directed that his hearse should be made to "look ridiculous" and his casket covered with smiley faces, in order to "foil Satan's ploy" of making death a somber, black event.
Foster, who grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, was told he had cancer in 1988, when a routine football physical at age 13 revealed an abnormality in his left ankle.
Foster's illness forced him to withdraw from Harvard in February of his sophomore year. In May, the university presented him the Peter Wilson Truly Remarkable Student Award.
After an 8-year battle through countless surgeries and chemotherapies, Foster, died at his parents' home in Des Moines on July 13, 1995.
He underwent his first surgery due to cancer, the amputation of his left leg, on the same date several years before.
"He lost his leg and his life on July 13," said his mother, Mary L. Foster. "Coincidences are a sign that God is with us," she said, noting that C.S. Lewis, one of Foster's favorite authors, lost his wife to illness on the same date.
Foster founded a C.S. Lewis study group at the St. Paul's cathedral in Des Moines. He attended the first meeting the week before he died.
Brain Foster plans to compile memories and photographs of his younger brother into a book. He hopes to publish a biography and, perhaps, separately, his brother's writings.
"[The book] would give people a very good picture of Brent and allow him to continue to speak to people afterwards," Brain Foster said