Lerke Foster, 81, passed away on Sunday, June 3 at the age of 81. She suffered for many years from Parkinson’s Disease and spent her last year in a nursing home.

No services are planned at this time.

Born and raised in Germany, she was the child of a school teacher and lived above the schoolhouse in a small town during World War II.

As a young adult, she became a teacher herself. She moved to the U.S. in 1960 to teach German for a year at Hastings College in Nebraska and eventually completed a bachelor’s degree there. She earned an M.A. in German literature at the University of Nebraska and accepted a teaching position at Northern Illinois University, where she met her husband, Brian Foster.

Lerke and Brian married in 1967 and began Ph.D. programs at the University of Michigan. Brian’s research took them to Thailand for a year and a half, and their daughter, Catherine, was born there. In 1972, they moved to Binghamton, N.Y., where their son, Thomas, was born.

In the decades that would follow, as Brian’s career moved into university administration, Lerke taught English as a second language and German, and they moved several times. They lived in Phoenix, Lincoln, Neb., Albuquerque, N.M.; and finally Columbia, where they arrived in 2005. Lerke stopped teaching at that point, while Brian served as Provost of the University of Missouri.

Lerke was a constant presence at university events and quickly made close relationships in Columbia. She joined the Tiger Tales Book Club, where, according to one member, “she was a dear friend of all members.” She was an accomplished pianist and a passionate collector of art, with a large collection of fine American-Indian ceramics, paintings, and sculpture - much of which she acquired in New Mexico, a place to which she felt deeply connected. She was an excellent cook with a passion for creating her own original dishes.

Lerke is survived by Brian, Catherine, and Thomas; four grandchildren, Sophie, Maggie, Spencer, and George; sister, Rose Holzwarth; and brother, Gottfried Holzwarth. She is loved by many and will be greatly missed.