Winchester icon Foreman laid to rest

Posted: November 3, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Friends and family said goodbye to Michael M. Foreman Saturday at a memorial service that was much like the man it honored: relatively short; unfailingly sincere; punctuated with humor; and most of all full of deep, deep love and affection.

“We were blessed to have Mike Foreman among us,” the Rev. James Utt told the more than 250 people assembled at Omps Funeral Home. “Now we have to let him go.”

However, Utt reminded, death cannot erase memories of Foreman or the great respect for all he did during his life.

Foreman died Tuesday night at Winchester Medical Center after a short illness. He was 71.

Born and raised in Winchester, he returned home after college to build a life and a legacy.

He was a teacher, assistant principal and supervisor at Handley High School before being appointed clerk of the Winchester Circuit Court, a position he held through three elections and for 28 years. After his retirement from that position, he was an adjunct professor at Shenandoah University.

Foreman also was elected to City Council in 1972 but gave up his seat in 1975 when he was appointed clerk.

His volunteers work included active affiliations with the Rotary Club of Winchester, the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, Mount Hebron Cemetery and the Winchester Area Food Bank. He was a respected amateur historian and a sought-after speaker, master of ceremonies and historical tour guide.

Among the honors he received were the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award, the Shenandoah University President’s Award for Outstanding Service in Community History, and Distinguished Service Awards from both the Virginia Circuit Court Clerk’s Association and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

As much as he was a community treasure and resource, those who knew him best say he was an even greater friend.

“He was the personification of love in my opinion,” former professional colleague and longtime friend John Capehart said during his remarks at the memorial service.

His sense of humor — termed “warped” by D. Bruce Patterson, also was recalled fondly.

Patterson, clerk of the Rockbridge County Circuit Court, noted that Foreman always posted landslide victories on Election Day. However, Patterson said that in 1987, Miss Virginia got one write-in vote against Foreman, “and he was not too pleased with that.”

Sheriff Lenny Millholland was part of a regular Monday lunch group with Foreman and other local men, most of whom were retired. They also had breakfast together on Wednesdays before heading to help at the food bank and often took local and regional trips together.

They referred to themselves as the ROMEOs — Retired Old Men Eating Out — but Millholland said he sometimes told people they were on work release and he had to return them to jail that afternoon.

After the memorial service, more than 100 people made their way to Mount Hebron Cemetery for a brief ceremony at his final resting place.

“If I ever give a tour of Mount Hebron Cemetery,” Utt said, “this spot will be noted.”

About 200 people then gathered at the Joint Judicial Center for a reception. The state of Virginia flag flying in front of that building was replaced on Friday by a city of Winchester flag, and it was set at half-staff and will remain at half-staff through sunset on Sunday.

For more details, see Monday's Winchester Star.