“Your candle burnt out long before your legend ever did.”
Christmas will never be the same again for Deirdré Foster and her three children, Bianca, Abigail and Caelib, whose husband and father, Mario Foster, succumbed to Covid-19 complications at the age of 51, on December 24, Christmas Eve, last year.
Their world was turned upside down, as the very nucleus of their existence, their safe haven, fortress and foundation, had been tragically ripped from their lives, leaving a heart-wrenching void and them reeling from the shock of his passing.
Who was this man, Mario Foster, who had touched so many lives and made an indelible impression on those he came into contact with during his short sojourn on this earth?
Mario Foster was a man for all seasons. He was a family man: not only was he a loving, committed and dedicated, hardworking husband, Deirdré’s soulmate and best friend, but he was also her “lighthouse in the storm”, her knight in shining armour, who like the gentleman he always was, treated her like a queen.
Deirdré described Mario as a “baby person”, making baby bottles, changing diapers and even playing flute for his kids while they sat in the bath.
He was also a “magnificent calming birth partner”, with Mario taking care of everything with their second and third child being born at home.
Mario was a handyman and a perfectionist, and with the limited resources he had, he painted his home with pride, like a true artist with a palette.
Ernita, Deirdré’s deceased mother had once said to her sister, Tina Braa:, “I could never have asked for a better husband for my daughter”.
He was his children’s “superhero”, who helped them visualize a future of hope and prosperity earned through hard work and perseverance. He was a fun dad, who dressed up in a Santa Claus suit and helped his children “hang out buckets with grass for the reindeers”.
Mario was Carter, his grandson’s, idol. Displaying an interest in music from a young age, Carter often accompanied his grandfather to his gigs.
Mario was a model son to his parents and from a young age, he was an exceptionally caring child, apologising with a flower or a letter, when he felt he had done something wrong.
His mother, Lorraine Foster, will always cherish the special scriptural and motivational messages he sent her every morning and their outings and uplifting chats.
He was a very special brother, who shared a close-knit, loving relationship with his siblings, Deon and Brian. Brian recalls Mario being a good swimmer and long-distance athlete with exceptional stamina, and the three of them spending quality time together catching fish or red crabs.
To quote Brian: “Mario was a people’s person and was very popular”. He was a Christ-centred, devout Christian, who lived out his Christianity with unwavering, uncompromising faith.
He was a visionary and a dreamer, and even when things were at their worst, Mario always had hope. During the toughest of times financially, Mario would sow seeds of kindness by buying electricity for others or blessings the poor with a meal or a word of encouragement.
Mario would brighten up people’s day… no cashier or petrol attendant was ever left without a smile on his or her face!
Deirdré’s aunt, Tina, had the following to say of Mario: “He did not practise an empty Christianity and never discriminated, always trusting in the Lord implicitly, even when times were tough during the hard lockdown. It was a privilege to know Mario, who left deep footprints in my heart … I will never forget him”.
In addition to his bookings at Arabella Sheraton Hotel, Kleinmond, Mario was offered a contract, before the second lockdown, to perform four midweek days by a big investment group.
He could have provided so well for his family that Deirdré resigned as teacher, only now to find herself struggling to make ends meet with the sole breadwinner in the family gone.
Despite financial dire straits and neurological complications (suffering from pre-strokes), Deirdré would like to impart the following message of hope: “There are days when we simply have to move ahead in faith, not exactly what the next step holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow.”
“You are inscribed in the palm of His hand. The Lord will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
Mario started his journey as a professional musician, taking clarinette lessons from his father, Gerald Foster, at the age of eight, and despite studying social welfare after matriculating, he pursued his first passion, music.
He matriculated at Gordon High School in Somerset West in 1987, and joined the South African Army Band in December 1989, performing to dignitaries and statesmen like ex-President Bill Clinton, the late Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki at state banquets.
One of the highlights of his music career was performing at the Delville Wood Memorial in France in 2006, and as the entertainer at the 2010 Soccer World Cup at four matches at Green Point Stadium.
Mario was a compassionate, caring community man, who, on Sister Elmarie Sauls’ request, performed for patients and the staff during the festive season at Helderberg Hospital, his soothing, therapeutic music bringing tears of joy as they sang Christmas songs to his saxophone playing.
He often performed for the late Mrs Murray at her home when she was bedridden, and even dressed up as Father Christmas to bring her some Christmas cheer.
Mario was also a true, loyal and best friend to many: Min Suik from South Korea called Mario, his tennis coach, an “angel”, as he and his family helped Min’s family to adjust to South African culture and lifestyle; Collin Klink, Mario’s colleague in the Army Band, leant so much from Mario spiritually as a friend, while Petra Steyn referred to Mario as a “bundle of laughter, bags of blessings for everyone, being more than a friend, but an anchor… his life being one big joyous melody … he was like Jesus on earth.”
Roland Afrika, friend and Gordon’s Bay traffic officer, with whom Mario shared a close brotherhood, had the following to say of Mario: “Mario was a joker of note, a humble, dependable, friendly guy, with the ability to bring out the best in people and always willing to help anybody at the drop of a dime!”
Mario’s business partner, Raymond referred to Mario as “a selfless friend,
with a positive, vibrant personality, leaving people inspired and uplifted whenever he was in their company, always holding people in high regard and never being judgemental”.
Rowan, Mario’s other business partner, spoke of Mario being a “cheerful giver”. Mario’s friend and the owner of Devon Valley, Grant Buroyne, echoed the sentiments of so many others who knew Mario: “I need to write a book to express what a legend Mario was.
“Never without a genuine smile on his face; always caring and considerate; Mario would give you the shirt on his back in a time of need. That was Mario and so much more; a great saxophonist and musician … Friday nights at Devon Valley Hotel will not be the same with you gone, but never forgotten.”
Fidelis, ex-manager at Devon Valley Hotel and current manager at the Arabella Sheraton Hotel, Kleinmond, shared the following on Mario: “Being best friends is a mix of laughs, smiles and blames, but I’m proud that we stood the test of time and you won.
“Your angelically-inspired music will forever echo in my ears and will wipe away
my tears, rejuvenate my energy to move on and conquer the world. RIP Mario, till we meet again.”
Reneé Murray of Musiciz Entertainment, not only had the privilege of being Mario’s friend, but also had the honour of working with Mario as a professional artist for many years.
She always appreciated his integrity, punctuality, sterling performances, doing himself and her proud and the positive feedback from satisfied clients, who invariably booked him again.
Deirdré’s parting message to her late husband, Mario: “Thank you for 30 years of friendship, companionship, love, 3 beautiful children and growing in faith together.
“Together we could accomplish anything, conquer any mountain, laugh through our struggles, always finding God’s grace and mercy in everything. I will cherish the life we had together forever and continue to hold onto God’s promises.
“I will miss you every day, as I strive to see the world through your eyes and will be grateful, courageous, see the humour in situations where laughter is a remedy, and will continue your legacy. You really did wear Jesus well. Till we see each other again. It is well with my soul.”
“Thank you for the music, for all the laughs and good memories. We will carry you in our hearts every day, wherever we go… this is not goodbye, it’s just a different kind of hello.” (from your friends) R.I.P. dearest Mario.