Jessie R. Foster was born February 26, 1936, in Elmore County to the late Ezra Shealey and Florence Cunigan.
At an early age, she joined Beulah Baptist Church, where she remained a faithful member until she gained her wings. Sister Foster served faithfully on the usher board and served as President of the Missionary Board. She was united in Holy Matrimony in 1964 to Claude Foster Jr.
She graduated high school from RR (Robert Russa) Moton High School, Tallassee, AL, in 1965. She was a licensed cosmetologist for 40 years and taught cosmetology at John Patterson Technical College in Montgomery, Alabama. She began her Head Start career in 1967, when it was a summer program, with Elmore/Autauga Community Action Committee. She held almost every position you can in Head Start over her forty-plus years of service. Under her leadership, the Elmore, Autauga, Chilton, and Shelby County Head Start/Early Head Start program expanded from 40 summer slots to serve 635 full-day slots for children and families before she retired in July 2008.
She and her administrative assistant, Ruth Witherspoon, wrote for and was awarded expansion services for Head Start in Shelby County in the mid-1990s.
She saw a need to provide extended day services and ventured into providing before, and aftercare for Head Start children on site.
Jessie ensured that 11 Head Start sites received National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accreditation.
Ms. Jessie was accepted to the UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Head Start Management Fellows Program through the UCLA Anderson School of Business. Only a limited number of candidates are accepted from a nationwide submissions pool over the past 25 years. Ms. Jessie was one of the first groups to complete the program. This is a very prestigious accomplishment.
She saw the need for Early Head Start services and gain expansion funding for 88 slots.
The Jessie R. Foster Early Head Start Center opened in 2003, serving 40 infants and toddlers age 6 weeks to 36 months. The naming of the facility was a surprise for Ms. Jessie.
Under a new administration funding for a Head Start/Early Head Start center, next door to the existing EHS center opened in 2018, a 2+ million dollar building also bore her name.
She visited and toured the facility named after her before it opened. As well as served the Alabama Head Start Association (AHSA) as Secretary in Marketing /Public Relations and served on almost every committee in the AHSA. Jessie was a proponent for adult education and provided GED classes for parents on site.
Forever in our Hearts
She was preceded in death by her parents: Ezra Shealey and Florence Cunigan, husband Claude Foster Jr., brother George (Smokey) Cunigan, sisters Niczora Leonard and Clara Kelley, daughter Teresa Pace, and son Charles Chapman.
God called her home on March 17, 2021. She leaves to cherish her loving memories, four daughters: Diane (Ernest) Purter, Sandra Thomas (Nathaniel), Antha (Van)Matthews, All Eclectic Al., Pamela Foster, Montgomery Alabama: two sons: Leonard Chapman and Wade Chapman, Eclectic Alabama. 20 grandchildren Angelic (Johnny) Columbus, GA., Nicki (Devron)James, Eclectic AL., Mark Foster, Kayla Foster, Kyle Foster, Montgomery AL., Michael (Michelle) Purter Atlanta Ga., Eric Purter, Jessica Pace, Tracy (Ramona)Buckhannon, Kevius (Latoya), Kourtney Matthews, Kristopher (Shirley) Matthews, Julius Brown, Quinton Moorer, All Eclectic AL., Leonard Chapman Jr., Atlanta Ga. Kenneth (Kesha)Montgomery AL., Marc (Shuronda)Brown Montgomery AL., Lisa Brown, Tammy Brown; both Eclectic Alabama, LaQuana (Antonio) Murray; Millbrook Al. 43 great-grandchildren, nine great-great-grandchildren, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.
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