Retired medical missionary and author brings home the gold
by Sherrie Norris
Running the 5K that put him in the national spotlight wasn't as easy as it might have been "a few years earlier," he said with a chuckle. But at 86, he said he wasn't too concerned about his competition.
It was the course, uphill and down and next to the zoo in Cleveland, Ohio, that proved to be his greatest test.
But, it was one he passed with flying colors -- the most important of which hangs brightly from his neck on a patriotic ribbon of red, white and blue.
Having participated in the High Country Senior Games since retiring to Boone in 2007 -- and earlier this year winning track at his local and state games to qualify him for the nationals -- Foulkes said he was blessed to still be able to run, something he has done competitively since high school.
"The Lord gave me a certain body to do his work all those years in Zambia, and the fact that I can still run is a spinoff of that," he said. "If you don't have a certain body, you stop running in your 60s when your arthritic knees give out on you."
Fortunately, Foulkes said, that didn't happen to him.
"I give God the credit for the fact that I'm still running and that I have really been healthy most of my life," he said.
Foulkes missed only two days of work during his career, and that was due to malaria, he said.
Coming full circle
His love for running began as a teenager when he chose to sprint to high school, "even though the bus came within a half-block of my house," he said.
"My track coach in 10th grade, told me he would make me the best half-miler in the state," he said. "That was my goal, but I didn't make it to the top. I made it to the finals, running the half-mile track, but came out third in the state."
Ironically, perhaps, it was to his homeland in Ohio that he returned seven decades later to capture the gold in July, and on a track beside the zoo, he said, "that took me very close to my friends from Africa," referring to elephants, lions and tigers.
"The 5K -- 3.2 miles -- was the longest race they would let us old guys run," he said. "I guess they were afraid we'd fall over if we went any farther."
Foulkes competed in the 85 to 89 division.
"I didn't have quite the pained look on my face in the end, as many do," he said. "Well, my daughter, who was there, did tell me that I looked awful as I passed by her, but at least I was still breathing."
To have the heart and body to run, Foulkes said, "is one of my happy things -- a gift from the Lord."
At the awards presentation, Foulkes was wearing a cap with "great big ASU letters upon it," he said. "I was hoping to give off a little advertising while I was there, but it didn't show up very clearly in the pictures."
Foulkes and his wife, Martha, retired to Boone 16 years ago, drawn here, he said, through a close friendship with Richard Furman, and a deep affection for Samaritan's Purse, honed through a long-term association in Africa. "They were there many times to help us," he said.
Foulkes quickly became an ASU Mountaineer Football fan and also a mentor to the coaching staff, meeting around the campfire each Wednesday night during football season, for prayer, food and fellowship.
He and his wife are active members of Alliance Bible Fellowship, through which he accompanied a group of youngsters on a mission trip to El Salvador earlier this month.
"This has turned out to be a wonderful place to live," Foulkes said -- and, apparently, a great place to keep running.
'To Africa with love'
Foulkes is a published author whose book, "To Africa With Love" vividly portrays his nearly four decades of life as a missionary doctor in Zambia, relating a spell-binding compilation of stories never far from his heart and mind.
It goes beyond what one would think of as a "missionary biography" -- it is captivating beyond description, as Franklin Graham said in his foreword: "As you pick up this book to start reading one evening, be prepared for a very long night because you won't be able to put it down to the end. You're in for a treat, a blessing, and you will be challenged to the depth of your soul."
Foulkes is a native of Lima, Ohio, and graduated from Asbury College in Kentucky before finishing medical school at Ohio State University. Her completed his general internship at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and his surgical residency at Akron General Hospital.
Foulkes met his (first) wife, Marilynn, a nursing student while in medical school before they began life on the mission field at the Mukinge Hospital, in what is now Zambia; it was the only source of medical care for some 40,000 natives.
Life for the young couple was not easy, as his book relates.
With very limited resources, Foulkes hunted wild game, including elephants and hippos, to feed the people in the hospitals and their families. He treated everything from malaria, measles and dysentery to AIDS. He later learned to perform cataract surgery and opened an eye center at the hospital.
But, no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to save the lives of his wife and two of their five children, who died while there.
In 1975, he married Martha Penner, a missionary nurse from Canada who had worked at the hospital with him for many years.
For almost four decades, Foulkes provided the people of the region with medical care, friendship, and the good news of Jesus Christ.
Medical Missions award
A year after he came to Boone, Foulkes was honored by the World Medical Mission and received the prestigious Award for Excellence in Medical Missions, conveyed by Franklin Graham.
Among his many other awards are the Alumni Achievement Award from the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, and induction into the Lima City Schools Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
Of all his earthly treasures, including the award and now his gold medal, Foulkes said it's still his family and his relationship with Jesus Christ that mean the most.