Stephen (Steve) Foster shared his time, talents, resources, heart, and intelligence with friends, family, and colleagues for 70 years. Born July 15, 1938 in Dillon, Montana, he died peacefully on April 9, 2009 in Billings, Montana, with friends and loved ones at his side.
The son of a sheep rancher and teacher, Steve was formed by the mischief and adventure of a smalltown boyhood. Fishing, hunting muskrats, and roaming the Montana countryside alongside his best and lifelong friend Norman Wight, he gained an appreciation and zest for life that never left him.
After high school, Steve earned a degree in English from Montana State University-Bozeman and a law degree with honors from the University of Montana. His distinguished 40-year career as an attorney began with a clerkship for Judge James R. Browning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He went on to work in private practice at Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole, & Dietrich in Billings; as chief counsel for the Anaconda Company in Butte; as senior attorney for the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) in Butte and Denver; and as a partner in the regional law firm Holland & Hart, headquartered in Denver.
Steve was one of Holland & Hart’s most valued partners. While serving on the firm’s Management Committee, he helped grow the business to its current size of 400 attorneys in seven states. In 1980, he opened H&H’s Billings office, hiring a core group of attorneys who have become firm and community leaders. He retired from the H&H partnership in 2005 but maintained strong ties to the firm and the legal community.
Steve mentored many young attorneys and litigators, among them former Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Karla Gray, who was a colleague at ARCO. All who worked with him were influenced by his expertise, intellect, and work ethic.
Consistently listed among The Best Lawyers in America, Steve was lead defense counsel in U.S. v. ARCO and State of Montana v. ARCO, two major federal court cases involving the largest superfund sites in the United States. In part due to this groundbreaking work, he was named a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor bestowed upon just 1% of his peers.
Steve was married to Kay Foster of Billings for 30 years. Together, they raised two children, Eugene (Geno) and Angela. Steve loved his children dearly and kept them close in his daily thoughts.
Steve married Beverly Hamilton Dunham in 1996. Their years together were a gift. He and Bev enjoyed one another immensely, traveling the world (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Tanzania, Europe, Peru), delighting in good food and good company, sharing a beautiful home, and tending to community and family. During this time, Steve took Bev’s sons Andy and Matt under his wing, giving friendship and thoughtful advice.
Steve’s passion was the piano. In adulthood, he resumed lessons started in childhood and became an accomplished pianist. At the time of his death, he was studying with Dorothea Cromley in private lessons and with young artists at Montana State University-Billings.
Steve’s love of music and culture led him to serve on the board of the Billings Symphony Society and to be instrumental in the founding of the Alberta Bair Theater. In recent years, his community spirit led to service on the board of the University of Montana Foundation. He also contributed to the Yellowstone County and Montana Bar associations in many capacities.
Steve was preceded in death by his father and mother, Walter and Dorothy Foster, and brother Rod Foster. He is survived by his wife Bev of Billings; children Geno of Santa Monica, California, and Angela of Brooklyn, New York; sisters Kathy Wilcox of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Gleanne (George) Wray of Moscow, Idaho; his nieces and nephews; and many friends and colleagues.
Steve left this life on a beautiful spring afternoon — fit, happy, and at peace with his life, past and present. He will be missed by many, and lovingly and gratefully remembered.
A service of celebration will be held at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, at First Congregational Church of Christ, 310 N. 27th Street, Billings.
In lieu of flowers, donations to honor Steve may be made to the University of Montana Foundation, the Alberta Bair Theater, the Billings Symphony, or the charity of your choice.