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Community fixture Richard Foster, known as 'the summertime Santa Claus,' has fallen on hard times.
As a child, Richard Foster (third from left) loved the times when the ice cream truck came around. Today, he's struggling after the freezer compressor in his ice cream truck failed.
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BY PAMELA GOULD
Richard Foster, the man dubbed the "summertime Santa Claus" for the joy he has brought to children for more than two decades, is now in need.
Foster, 75, has operated Richard's Ice Cream Express, delivering ice cream bars and other sweet treats to youngsters in Spotsylvania County neighborhoods and community pools since shortly after retiring from National Linen Service.
But since mid-July, the upbeat melody that signaled his ice cream truck's arrival on residential streets has been absent.
The compressor that cooled the freezer holding the treats inside his cavernous truck quit working, and he has been unable to get it repaired or replaced.
Two people looked at it and gave different opinions on what was wrong, but neither offered to fix it.
And at this point, Foster said, he doesn't have the money to pay for repairs or a new compressor since his one means of earning income evaporated more than two months ago.
John Garnett, owner of Garnett Refrigeration in Spotsylvania, estimated a new compressor and the necessary refrigerant could run as much as $2,400.
Foster has been visiting the food pantry at Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation at Spotsylvania Courthouse, for sustenance. He's behind on all of his bills and faces the prospect of needing to find a new home since his Social Security check doesn't cover his rent. He and a longtime friend have pooled their resources to pay the rent, but said they may need to start selling their belongings to prepare to move.
But the county resident didn't go public with a plea for help. Someone in the community who heard about his plight thought people would be interested because he is so beloved.
"My problem is this," Foster said. "I was raised this way. I'll accept charity, but I'll die right out here in the street before I'd ask for any."
Foster operates his ice cream truck year-round, so he's losing business with every day that passes.
"The truck brings in good money if you're working," he said.
With weather still mild, he'd normally be on the streets after school on weekdays and for several hours every Saturday.
But for now, the 1979 Chevrolet step van decorated with photos of such treats as Popsicles, Klondike bars and Nutty Buddy cones sits idle in front of Foster's home.
And children are left to wonder when, if ever, they'll again hear the carnival-like sound of "Do Your Ears Hang Low?"--signaling that "Mr. Richard" and his truck full of treats have arrived.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Anyone wishing to assist Richard Foster should contact Christ Church, 8951 Courthouse Road, Spotsylvania, 540/582-5033.