Blount County Chamber president Fred Forster was honored April 18 as the recipient of the 2008 Community Leadership Award. Leadership Blount presented the award during an April 18 breakfast at Maryville First United Methodist Church.
While several individuals stood to speak and share memories of their friend, it was Forster’s wife, Carolyn, who offered some of the most poignant comments.
“I can’t imagine anyone who deserves it more. He’s been the rock for everybody,” she said. “Fred is one of the most transparent people I’ve ever met -- what you see is what you get. He’s honest and from the heart. That’s what people see.”
Forster moved to Blount County in 1979 where he served at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard base and also served tirelessly in the community through various organizations.
After being promoted to assistant adjutant general with the Tennessee National Guard in January of 1999, a job in which he worked mainly on weekends, he took the position of president of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce.
In May of 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer and began a regiment of radiation and chemotherapy to fight the disease. He returned to work earlier this year with a clean bill of health.
“Fred exemplifies what it means to have a servant’s heart,” said Mike Zorio, chair of Leadership Blount. “Not only is he continually on the front line of critical community issues, he also helps grow our leaders of tomorrow.”
Sue Dawson, Bryan Daniels and Tom Howard spoke of how Forster had affected their lives.
Dawson said she had the pleasure of knowing Forster through his role as a community volunteer. “As a community volunteer, I think Fred has reached perfection,” she said.
Dawson said words like “inspirational, exceedingly humble and modest, charitable and possessing miraculous powers” described Forster.
She said Forster inspired others during Relay for Life to strive hard. “He pushed us and made us work harder,” she said.
Dawson said Forster was exceedingly humble and modest. “Fred always defers the light to others, never himself, to give credit to the team. It is truly about putting others first,” she said.
Dawson said Forster was charitable in sharing his time with many different charities and organizations. “I would hate to see his calendar. He has generously lent his skills to United Way, Maryville College, Great Smoky Mountains, Parks and Rec, Mount Lebanon Baptist Church,” she said.
Dawson said Forster has miraculous powers. “Have you ever seen Fred looking for money? He uses his extreme talent for persuading them that they want to give. We’re all willing to help when he calls on us,” she said.
Daniels told a story of the first few months when he was hired on with the Blount Partnership and how he grew to think of Forster as his best friend. “Fred and I were just getting to know each other, and we talked about everything but work. He said, ‘It’s important to find someone with common beliefs who cares about humanity as much about job knowledge.’”
Daniels said Forster uses humor to motivate people, telling him to never take himself too seriously. Daniels said he followed Fred to a meeting in Nashville when Fred was still adjutant general, but he didn’t have his uniform on during the meeting. “I saw a person be disrespectful, and he never reacted. I said, ‘Why didn’t you tell him you were a two-star general?’ He said, ‘I don’t need a rank to reaffirm who I am. It’s how you work with people.’”
Daniels said Forster taught him how to be an encourager. “Fred, you’ve taught me as much about being a friend as you have about being a man. I am forever grateful and in your debt.”
Tom Howard said he and Forster share a common secret to a happy marriage. “Marry way above yourself and practice saying yes ma’am a lot.”
Howard said Forster seemed to have a sixth sense and knew how to be an encourager. “Howard said everyone should learn from the lesson Fred exhibited. “Find a friend with a challenge. Take time and invite them to lunch. Let them know you care. Let’s honor him by the way we lead our lives, by taking time to be a friend to someone else.”
Fred Forster thanked Leadership Blount for taking the time to go through the nominations and for picking him.
“I want to thank our community. We would not be nearly what we are without everyone here and those not here,” he said. “Communities thrive when given multiple opportunities to serve.”
Forster said he has always tried to surround himself with good people and has always tried to maintain a positive attitude. “I always see the glass as half full. See that every individual has potential to be a super star if given the opportunity.”
“I remember going to the first Gulf War, that was a real eye opener,” he said. “I saw ones who did not step up in peace time who stepped up and were superstars. You never know who it’s going to be.”
Rebecca Forster praised her father and said the good attitude he shows in public is the same attitude he exhibits in private.
Joy Carver said that throughout her dad’s military career she, her sister and her mother had accompanied Forster to many events like changes of commands or retirements. “This was something special,” she said.