Fred Forster always said the Blount County Chamber needed a flagpole. On June 6, the Air National Guard fulfilled his wish and honored his memory.
A flagpole was dedicated in the late Forster’s memory at the Blount Chamber of Commerce on Washington Street in Maryville. Forster retired as president and CEO of the Blount Partnership in July of 2010 and died Nov. 18, 2010.
A group of friends and Chamber board members were on hand with an honor guard from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, as well as Col. Tim Dearing, the outgoing commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing, and incoming commander Col. Tommy Cauthen.
Forster’s widow Caroline Forster said she was touched by the turnout and honor for her husband. “It was a little bit of a surprise because I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big gathering. It was such an honor to have Col. Dearing and Col. Cauthen here, and the honor guard,” she said. “It was such a moving tribute to Fred, and my goodness, and it happened on D-Day. I thought about that after I got home, about what a fitting day to have this dedication. It made it even more meaningful.”
Bryan Daniels, president and CEO of the Blount Chamber Partnership, thanked Tennessee Marble for donating the monument at the base of the flagpole. He also thanked the Air National Guard for providing the flagpole in honor of Forster’s military service and his community service to the Partnership. The Air Guard also provided two flags, the one flown on the flagpole, and another which was placed in a shadow box for display inside the Chamber.
“The ironic issue for us is that Fred, during the time he was with us, always talked about how we needed a flagpole, and now we have one dedicated in his honor,” Daniels said. “Fred was a true patriot. And he was a community leader and loved Blount County so much.”
Daniels said that the Chamber building stands on the former site of Fort Craig, which makes the flagpole a good fit historical as well.
Doug Horn, a Chamber board member and past Blount Chamber board chair, said Forster was a leader who never sought the limelight, but the way friends and family honored him would have made him proud, Horn said.
Horn said dedicating the flagpole in Forster’s memory was an appropriate way to honor his leadership. “How do you honor someone like Fred who was always behind the scenes acting as an encourager?” Horn said.
Horn said Forster was the type of person who would’ve been embarrassed by attention, but he would have appreciated the results of having a flagpole in place at the Chamber.
“Dedicating something that has such special meaning to him and so many others would make him, as well as his family, proud,” Horn said.
Cauthen said June 4 was the eighth anniversary of Forster’s retirement from the base where he served as commander and was respected for his leadership on the base and in the community.
Cauthen, commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, said, “He was a personal hero of mine and an icon of service,” Cauthen said. “It’s my distinct honor to be here.”
Dearing, retired commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, said Forster was all about service. “He taught us about serving the country, the community, and he showed us how to live in adversity,” Dearing said. “He taught me a lot.”
Chris Soro, owner of C2RL, was on hand for the flagpole dedication and was close friends with Forster. “I knew Fred for 15 years, from the time he was base commander to when he was at the Chamber. We were also in a prayer group that met every Monday morning, and I got to know him well,” Soro said. “He’s everything you think a hero would be. I’m proud we were able to fly this flag for him. He would really appreciate it.”