Lawrence Foster

Today is Lawrence’s birthday. Or would be, if he were still here. Unfortunately, I lost my friend in 1980. He was killed by a man who wanted to steal the car he was selling. Which was horrible. But considering Lawrence Foster was a 26 year old world-renowned cellist, a man whose hands were insured for $1 million, it made it even worse.

Lawrence was discovered at age 11 by Leonard Bernstein. He was an amazing musician, earning accolades throughout his short life. But I knew him as the crazy guy who lived with my friend Brad. We lived in London, England; Brad was one of my high school classmates. I don’t know how Lawrence ended up living with them; I don’t even remember how I first met him. I do remember that I had a crush on him, although he was years older. He was cute and funny and took time to hang out with us, when he was in town.

I learned to appreciate the cello by listening to him play. I would close my eyes, and let his music take me to another place. He closed his eyes when he played, and you felt like you were intruding on something intensely personal when you watched. He was simply amazing.

He was also crazy. He used to ride his bicycle through the streets of London, drafting behind double-decker buses. I remember the night a bunch of us were out and about, and my friend Hope borrowed his bike – and promptly disappeared. Lawrence searched for hours with us, as worried as we were, blaming himself, until we found her safe at a police station.

He came and went. I never knew when I’d see him again. But my heart would beat a little faster when his blond head and wide smile popped back into my life. Thinking of him still makes me smile.

Then I came back to the States for college, and we lost touch. I kept track of him from afar, as I could, but that was pre-Internet, so I had to rely on newspaper stories, which were few and far between. But friends reported that he had gotten married, and moved to Georgia. I was glad that he seemed to be creating a normal life for himself, and looked forward to the day I would be hear him play at a fancy concert hall, and I could go backstage afterwards and give him a big hug, because the star was my friend.

My senior year, I came home for Christmas break, I believe. When I arrived, my mother gave me a newspaper article that my father had found. It was a story from Lawrence’s mother, and explained that he had been murdered by a man who wanted to steal the car Lawrence was trying to sell him. She had written the article because he had friends all over the world, and she wanted them to know he was gone. I was stunned, and remember walking around in a daze for much of that vacation. Even though I hadn’t seen him for a while, I always knew I’d see him again. I was happy to know that he was out there somewhere, making beautiful music.

Thanks to the Internet, there are a few items online about Lawrence, and his short life. It’s nice to read them, and remember my friend. But I always remember him on January 11 – on his birthday. He would have been 59 today.

One of the articles says that he would have most likely been a star on the level of Yo-Yo Ma, had he lived. He was a star to us. And hopefully, he’s up there somewhere among the stars, playing his cello. And drafting behind a comet.

Happy birthday, Lawrence. As long as we remain in the hearts and memories of our friends, we live on. I will always miss you.

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30 Responses to Lawrence Foster

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nicely done Beth, and such a tragic loss…wish we had you-tube back then!

  2. Just stopping by to give a few hugs. (((Beth))) I hope life gets better soon and that you find a way to positively engage your writer brain soonest. It’s so much nicer when we tell the stories instead of us telling them.

    • Beth says:

      Thanks Kelly! You’re so right. I often think of your wise words when my brain goes off on its own, that I need to be engaging it creatively instead of letting it cause trouble by making up stuff that just isn’t there. I’ll work on it, promise!

      • Anytime and glad to hear it. Glad that you were able to read through the garble there as well, as that last should have been “them telling us.” Sigh. A bit unwound myself at the moment, between travel, losing my pup running companion, and the long much loved chaos of Laura being on break. Finally starting to get back to routine today. (((Beth)))

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beth,

    Thank you for this article on Lawrence Foster. I worked with him at the dealership in Chamblee, GA. I remember the day he died. I never have forgot it. I discovered last week a file I had on Lawrence. I was asked to conduct his graveside service by the owner of the dealership. I know exactly where he is buried. Most of those who attended were the men and women he worked with. We had a very intense conversation as to why he had left the cello and was where he was. In simple terms he felt he had done nothing but the cello since he was a very young child.and needed a break. There was no question that he was going back to the cello at the time of his death.

    I rememer a man got off the bus walked up the hill to the new car showroom and asked specifically for Lawrence. Lawrence worked out of the used car office. He had gone to cash his pay check during the lunch hour. When he returned he was told about his customer. The man asked for a specific car and a specific color.

    For several years I stayed in contact with his mom and dad. As the years past we lost contact. You are the first person who actually knew him prior to his coming to the dealership, outside his parents of course.

    Even in the last few days I thought about contacting the cold case unit of the Dekalb Sheriff’s Department. This is a case that needs to be solved. I pray that something can come of even our contact. I would be glad to do whatever I can to see this solved.

    Again, thank you for your article.

    Keith Kenemer

    • Beth says:

      Oh my gosh, Keith, I SO appreciate your writing!! Would it be okay if I emailed you? My address is bhanggeli at yahoo.com. I know many of my friends – who were also Lawrence’s friends – would love to know more about his life after we lost track of him, and what you knew of him. And yes, it would be wonderful if the case could be solved. I hope you’ll write back. Thank you so much for taking the time to find my post, and to respond. It means the world to me.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this article, Beth. I forwarded it to Lawrence’s sister and she said she appreciated it deeply. I still think of him and miss him so often. I would so enjoy hearing more from Keith as well. My e-mail is katgut1@aol.com.

  5. Anonymous says:

    P.S. The above anonymous is Kathi Angeroth. Sorry!

    • Beth says:

      Hey Kathi! Thanks for sharing it with his sister. I’m hoping Keith will contact us, so we can find out more. I’ll let you know if I hear from him. Nice to hear from you – hope you’re well!! Thanks for the note!

  6. Louita Clothier says:

    Beth, I’m so proud of the wonderful writer you’ve become. It’s good to hear from ASL students. I feel like I knew Lawrence through Kathi, and because I was part of the London music scene when he lived there. Thanks so much for this warm and personal tribute to Lawrence.

    • Beth says:

      Mrs. Clothier, it’s SO wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words. I wish I had put more time into this post, now that so many people are reading it. There is so much more I could say about Lawrence. I’m just glad that folks still remember him, after all this time. And I’m touched that you took the time to read it, and to comment. I hope all is well in your world. It’s been a few years since London, but they were still some of the best of my life. And you were a part of it! Big hugs from me to you – xo Beth

  7. Dear Beth: I am Margaret Ann Yeakley Buck, Brad’s mother. Brad has just called to tell me about your article. Of course, I had tears in my eyes the whole reading. Brad is going to contact you by personal mail giving you the details of Lawrence’s home at our home, first on Waterside Place and then on No. Audley Street. As I say, Brad will write more in detail. I will say, though, that Lawrence was more than a “FOSTER” child to us, he was OUR son when he was in London. I, like you, learned to love the cello and appreciate it. I went with him to Sotheby”s to see a very old and valuable cello. They let him play it and he was enthralled. I could go on and on, but will let Brad go first. If he misses anything, let me know and I’ll fill you in. Lawrence did not “just live with us”. He was my fifth son! REMEMBER LAWRENCE FOSTER! Of course. He is never very far away from me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Margaret Ann, I was also a very good friend of Lawrence, and I still think of him all the time, especially when I play the cello. I would love to contact you and hear more. My e-mail address is above, earlier on this page. Brad, please I would like to also hear more from you. It would be so nice to be in contact with you again. Kathi Clothier Angeroth

    • Beth says:

      It’s wonderful to hear from you! I haven’t heard from Brad in forever, and look forward to that. And also to hear from his “other mother.” I always wondered how he ended up living with you. It’s so nice to reconnect with old friends, and folks who knew Lawrence, after all this time. I’ll wait to hear from Brad, and hope to be in touch with you soon. Thank you SO much for taking the time to write!

  8. Mrs. Cohutt says:

    Beth, last night I googled the words “Lawrence Foster murder” and your blog came up. I knew Lawrence briefly, but he has continued to pop up unexpectedly in my mind through the years. I have never forgotten him. Last night was one of those times; I have no idea what triggered the memory, but as I began to think of him, I decided to do an internet search.
    I worked at Allen-Russell Ford in Sandy Springs as a receptionist the summer after my freshman year of college. Someone in an earlier post referred to it as being in Chamblee, but that part of Atlanta was considered Sandy Springs. My reception desk was on the showroom floor, so I worked directly with the sales staff. Lawrence is the only one I really remember. These are some of the things I remember about Lawrence: He used to like to sing “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”, he talked about his wife a lot, he would sometimes bring me a soft serve ice cream cone when he came back from lunch, he smiled all the time. I never had the privilege of hearing him play the cello, but I understand that he was amazing. I returned to school at the end of the summer, and never saw him again. I don’t remember how I heard about his murder, but it has continued to haunt me for all these years. Such a waste of a beautiful life and talent. Thank you for remembering him. I do, too.
    ~Patty Hunter, Rome, Ga

    • Patty, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It’s great to hear from other people who knew him. I wish you could have heard him play. He was indeed amazing. Thanks for sharing your memories with us! Take care – Beth

  9. Hand says:

    Well he had a wonderful sister who is a violin teacher and is making her student amazing. I am one of her students

    • Beth says:

      You’re very lucky! I haven’t met his sister, but we have corresponded. I hope you enjoy your lessons, and your teacher! Best of luck to you, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  10. Joshua Bloom says:

    Beth
    I had the pleasure of attending high school with Lawrence; I saw him 5 days a week for orchestra rehearsal, for 2 or 3 years. (I recall he was one year ahead of me; I think his family moved in my sophomore year.) He was a normal, nice, happy kid who happened to have one-in-a-million musical talent and dedication. He seemed to enjoy playing in our ensemble, surrounded by 98 schoolmates of varying musical mediocrity. He would never criticize, showup, or embarass or wince. He would just lead by example, taking care to turn down the volume of his beautiful cello so as not to overpower and drown out the others. When our conductor died in the spring of 1971, Lawrence performed a movement from the Dvorak cello concerto at a memorial concert…such a glorious tone and power I still can hear today in my mind. We also enjoyed a few bike rides together. The carefree reckless joy mentioned in other posts was evident.
    I well remember seeing that awful headline in January 1981. I could not attend the memorial service (I believe it was held in Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest.), but I know that all the orchestra alumni were shocked and devasted. Every few years I think of him. When I googled him 5 years ago, there was nothing on the web. I was happy to find your blog this time. Thank you.

    • Beth says:

      Joshua, thank you for taking the tine to write. It’s been wonderful hearing from so many people who remember Lawrence. I’m hoping his family is keeping track of these replies, and seeing how much he was loved. It’s nice to hear that he was always that way, even when he was younger. I guess time doesn’t really change who we are. I just wish he was still around, so we could have followed his career through the years. I’d love to hear him play again…..

      Take good care, and thanks again!!

  11. John Bayless says:

    Dear Beth,
    A wonderful article and tribute to Lawerence.
    I met him when I was 15 and attending the Aspen School of Music. He was a year younger than I was. Coming from a small town in Texas, I had never met anyone as passionate and who loved MUSIC as mulch as I did. We actually met in a church one Sunday evening, his mother,sister,my mother,brother and father. We instantaneously bonded.
    We kept in touch over the years and my parents saw him in London. I went to Juilliard and was devastated when I learned of his death. So tragic!!!
    Tonight I was thinking about him and decided to google his name- and here I am writing to you.
    Thank you for your thoughts and time devoted to our friend and musical genius.
    Sincerly and with Shalom peace,
    John Bayless

    Isaiah 40:31
    John 15:5

    • Beth says:

      John, thank you for taking time to comment. It’s amazing how many people still remember Lawrence. I love seeing these comments because it reminds me of him, after all these years, but also shows how much he was loved. I didn’t know he had been to Aspen – I lived there myself after college, and remember the music students playing in the streets. I hope he’s playing with the angels…

      Take care – Beth

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  13. John G. New says:

    Hi Beth,

    Thanks for posting this.

    You don’t know me, but I came across your post about Lawrence Foster while semi-randomly surfing the web for cello-related posts. I met Lawrence while playing with a community orchestra in Michigan sometime in the late ’70s. Lawrence was part of a program of very accomplished artists in a program that would match them to solo with amateur orchestras (I don’t recall the details of the program). He played the Dvorak cello concerto with us, and I remember that his playing was sublime; it was a wonderful experience to make music with him (I was 3rd stand, 1st violins so I was sitting quite close to him and could watch closely and listen to him, when I wasn’t fixated on navigating the difficulties of my own part).

    But what really set him apart (apart from his heavenly playing) was how friendly, warm, and outgoing he was. After our second concert, there was a reception at the condutor’s house for the soloist, orchestra and members of the Board. Unlike some of the artists who played with us, who were snobbish or condescending to we mere amateurs, Lawrence was warm, enthusiastic about music and playing, and just easy (and fun) to talk to. I vivdly remember laughing with him about a concert I saw him play with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Meadow Brook (the DSO’s summer venue). He was playing the Tschaikovsky Variations on a Roccoco Theme with Aldo Ceccato conducting and, midway through the performance, a huge tree fell over in the woods somewhere in back of the outdoor Pavilion with a resounding crash. They didn’t miss a beat. At the reception, Lawrence laughingly said “Aldo and I looked up and saw that the roof was still up there, so we figured we’d better just keep on playing.”

    I was only a couple of years younger than him at the time, and he was the kind of person you’d think you could very easily be friends with. I didn’t learn about his tragic death until years later. What a loss.

    I’m playing cello now in a different community orchestra (in Maryland) and we’re currently rehearsing the Tschaikovsky Variations. I think of him, that person I met years ago when we were both young men, when I play.

    I hope you don’t mind my writing, I thought you might just appreciate my sharing a memory. He was a good guy.

    Best
    John

    • Thanks so much for sharing this memory, John. It’s been wonderful to have other people who knew Lawrence pop up here and share their memories of him. As long as we remember him, he’s still with us. I’m glad you had such a good experience with him – he was so kind to me and my friends, who were years younger than him. He always treated us like equals, and spent time with us when he was in town. He was so talented. I’m glad you’re still involved in the music world, and glad you still remember my friend. Thanks for sharing! Take care – Beth

  14. Anonymous says:

    I knew him when he was “Larry” and lived next door. We rode our bicycles around the neighborhood. But only for a short while because his mom would call out to him to come in and “PRACTICE!” All that practice paid off. His sister Sonjia played the violin.

  15. Bruce McKinney says:

    Larry and I went to grade school together (Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, IL, class of 1968). I remember I arranged a reunion of our class in 1981. I asked if anyone knew where Larry was and I was told what had happened to him. So sad. I will always remember his smile and positive attitude. What a loss.

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