Sadie’s dream comes true

The Burkhalter family appreciates Jacksonville State University’s kindness to their late mother, Sadie Foster. She is a recent graduate. From left are, Steve Burkhalter, Courtney Morris, Sadie, Stanley Burkhalter, and Eddie Burkhalter.

Submitted photo

Sometimes effort is enough, such as the times when one works hard but does not reap the reward. During those times, the effort itself can bring a smile to the lips and contentment to the heart.

No one learned this truth better than Sadie Foster, 78. She wanted to follow through with her lifelong desire to get a degree and a job as a counselor in order to help others. She died, though, on Dec. 22, just days after she was set to graduate with her classmates at Jacksonville State University on Dec. 15. Her story is inspiring and a perfect example of why the staff of JSU contributes to the mantra that JSU is “The Friendliest Campus in the South.”

A couple of years ago, Sadie returned to school to earn a master’s degree. Ironically, impediments arose at once. A sister became ill and needed someone to help her. Sadie helped. A daughter’s husband died. Sadie comforted her. Yet she still studied and kept an eye on her goal.

“From the time we were kids,” said her son, Piedmont resident Eddie Burkhalter, “she would do anything for anybody, even take in strangers.”

Sadie, who had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology years ago, thrived as a student. She engaged with her fellow students and admired her instructors. Also, she simply loved learning new things.

A semester ago, after Sadie finished her course work, she interned at a women’s addiction-recovery home in Centre. She could not talk with her family about the clients’ specific circumstances, but she shared that addicted women struggled hard. She grieved when one died.

“Mother was ready to start her career,” said Burkhalter, a former Piedmont Journal and Anniston Star reporter. “She was set to do it.”

Around the first of December, Sadie began feeling sick. She thought she had the flu and then learned she had had a heart attack. Physicians at Gadsden Regional Medical Center decided to place a stint in her heart, and they set the date for the procedure in time for her to recover enough to graduate. However, the procedure was delayed in order for Sadie to get stronger.

Burkhalter called a friend at JSU, the director of public relations, Buffy Lockette. He asked if he could have a copy of the video that JSU students had made of Sadie and other students being interviewed prior to graduation. When he told Lockette about Sadie’s illness, she told him she would send to him not only the video but also the printed degree. However, just before the JSU staff left for Christmas break, Lockette told Emily White, JSU registrar, and Timothy King, vice president of student affairs, about Sadie’s situation.

The two decided to do more than mail out a degree. They planned a graduation service in Sadie’s hospital room. King donned his cap and gown and walked through the halls of Gadsden Regional. Lockette carried gifts of a JSU t-shirt and ring. White joined the two, and the three conducted a brief graduation ceremony. Sadie was slightly groggy from medications, but she smiled and told them their visit was even better than walking with her classmates. Within a day or so, she underwent the procedure successfully but likely developed a stroke afterward. She died without ever getting her much-anticipated job.