By Will Tuell
Even before retired State Trooper Andy Foss left this world Oct. 18, Downeasters from Steuben to Foss’s native Lubec rallied behind the career law enforcement officer and his family. Foss, who retired from the State Police in January after decades in law enforcement, had gone through a heroic battle with cancer several years ago only to learn recently that he had an aggressive, inoperable brain tumor that would ultimately take his life.
“Andy was a good man and a good trooper who I had the privilege of knowing and working with,” Northern Field Troop Commander Michael Johnston of the Maine State Police said in response to an email from this publication last week. “His professional narrative is exceeded by his personal narrative as a father, husband, and member of the community.”
That sentiment came through loud and clear in an early February interview with Foss, and is perhaps why the community he loved serving so much welcomed him back to Machias from a medical appointment in Boston with honking horns, signs, and a motorcade Oct. 15.
“I still get teary-eyed when I think of the amount of support myself and my family received,” Foss said in early February. “I’ve always been one of those guys on the other side, doing whatever you can to help people when they need something. It’s pretty eye-opening when you are on the other side and [now] you’re the one getting the help, the amount of people who come and help you. I’d be lying if I said I never had tears in my eyes on a lot of days. They [State Police] were there every step of the way, whether it was something we needed at home, they were always checking in, if there was anything at all that they could do. A lot of the guys would stop in and see me in the hospital. The amount of support was unbelievable.”
A benefit supper, scheduled before Foss’s passing, for Oct. 28 at Rose M. Gaffney Gymnasium, and a Nov. 4 ATV ride in Foss’s honor, are both still on, and carry an even greater meaning to organizers.
“It has been a pleasure planning the dinner and silent auction,” Judy Hanscom of Machias said. “I have not had to ask one person to cook a meal or donate an auction item! It has been an incredible response. People from all over the state have called or messaged. We have over 70 auction items at this time. Everyone has offered to help at the supper, from the community, law enforcers and RMG employees! Andy is very well thought of and obviously incredibly popular. I expect this to be one if not the largest benefit in our area.”
Jodi Look, whose family lives next door to Foss’s, said that the Machias Ridge Rider ATV Club got the idea for a ride from a club in Dennysville who did a similar ride over the holiday weekend to raise money for Christmas gifts for area families.
“We thought it was a great idea,” Look said Oct. 18. “We reached out to law enforcement to see if they would be interested, they jumped on the idea. The ATV community supports each other and has the same goal, giving back to their community. I was overwhelmed by the calls, messaged asking how they could help, and shared the Facebook post as well.”
Look added that Foss and his wife Jane were very much into serving their community.
“Andy and his family have been our neighbors for many years,” she said. “Our kids grew up together. Both Andy and Jane have given back to their community over and over, over the years. Volunteering as little league coaches and Concessions. They Volunteered for the boosters club and much much more. It only feels fair that the community gives back just as much. Because of Andy, my daughter is in college studying criminal justice after listening to all his stories over the years.”
Retired State Trooper Jeff Ingemi, who served as Foss’s sargent for the bulk of his career, recounted in an Oct. 21 interview that even those Foss arrested respected him, stating that one time Foss was involved in a high-speed chase in Lubec where the offender lost a tire and a boat off the back of his truck while trying to evade Foss as they headed down a back road.
“Andy went off chasing him for quite a while, down some back roads near Lubec,” Ingemi said. “I think a tire fell out of the back of the [guy’s] pickup truck, and I know a small boat was in the back of the truck. That fell out and was in the road. I remember, I was about to shut down the chase…and Andy said, ‘no, no, it [the boat] skidded off the side of the road.’ So he continued on the chase, the guy pulled up into a blueberry field, and I got there shortly after Andy was placing the guy under arrest. He told Andy -- because Andy grew up in Lubec -- ‘Andy, I didn’t know it was you. If I’d known it was you, I wouldn’t have run!”
Ingemi added that his and Foss’s families had Thanksgiving together when both troopers were out on patrol, that Foss was a friend as much as a colleague, and that both were men of faith even though Foss has been unable to get to church since first getting sick.
“I talked with him Monday [Oct. 16] to see how he was doing with his faith, he’d gone to church at Machias Valley [Baptist] years ago, and he talked to his sister about going back to church recently, once he was feeling a little better, and he said his faith was still very strong. I asked him if he had any doubts, and he said, ‘No,’ and I asked him if he had any questions about anything in the Bible before he went. He knew his time was short [when he came back from Boston the night before] and he said no, he’s 100% sure where he’s going.”
The Oct. 28 benefit for Foss and his family is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Rose M. Gaffney Gym. Those wishing to donate are encouraged to contact Hanscom at 207-255-6196.
The Machias Ridge Riders ATV night parade will be Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. “The parade will line up at Subway in Machias,” the club said via social media, “and will be escorted, by law enforcement from Subway, turning on the Sunrise Trail across from Dunkin’, turning onto Route 1 in East Machias, going through East Machias, then turning onto Scott’s Hill Road, and back to Subway. We are asking that each machine make a donation. You can also decorate your machine. Contact Jodi Look (207)-356-3602 with questions.”
Game Warden Joe McBrine added in a Facebook message that law enforcement would be helping out with traffic control throughout the ride, and that participants should not worry about being picked up for driving an ATV on a non-authorized road since it is an authorized parade where organizers have worked with local officials and law enforcement agencies involved.
“Andy was a respected and tenacious lawman who cared deeply about the community,” the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, where Foss worked as a deputy prior to joining the State Police, said in a statement on social media. “There is so much that could be said about Andy, but we will just say the world is a lesser place without you in it. Rest easy Andy we have the watch!”
Foss’ funeral was held at Lubec High School Oct. 22. He is survived by his wife, Jane, their children Daphne and Ethan; mother Gloria (Foss) Ramsdell; sisters Rae Mathews and Sandra Jones and their families; nephew Brad Matthews and his family; niece Stefani Parker and her family; and nephew Jesse Jones and his significant other. The family asked that, in lieu of flowers, for community members to make a donation to the Machias Area Little League.