In another time she might have been Joan of Arc. Or Annie Oakley. More recently, Amelia Earhart or even Rosa Parks with an attitude.

In another time she might have been Joan of Arc. Or Annie Oakley. More recently, Amelia Earhart or even Rosa Parks with an attitude.

In our time, though, this amazing life force was known as Millie Foster. Millie definitely was a fighter, could absolutely shoot straight and never shied away from soaring to new heights at the risk of crashing to earth.

And like Miss Parks she would never have gone to the back of the bus, but unlike Miss Parks she would have given you an earful in refusing to do so.

I, and many others, loved Millie Foster. If you never had the opportunity to encounter this woman, I believe you would have as well.

“I have a lot, a lot of people in this state that highly appreciate what I’ve done for ‘em,” Millie once told me. “I probably have a very small handful that as soon as they hear the word ‘Millie’ go ‘ick!’

“I don’t mince my words, I tell you the way it is. If you can’t stand the tree shakin’ don’t ask me something … ’cause I’m not going to lie to you. I will tell you the truth, even it hurts.”

As far as I’m concerned, if there are those who were rubbed the wrong way by this lady … they wouldn’t want to be around me, either. Nor me around them.

We lost Millie to cancer last week. She was 79.

Although she was known as an icon in the archery community, both in the Kansas City area and nationally, Millie excelled in life whatever she jumped into. Basketball, race car driving, pool and marriage. She and her husband, Earl, were married nearly four decades and were a joy to see in action together at their Raytown shop, BB Archery.

“He is my godsend,” she said of Earl on more than one occasion to me.

Then once when I asked Earl if he still bow hunted since he and Millie were so personally and professionally involved in archery, he was quick to explain why he didn’t without the slightest hesitation. If Millie couldn’t accompany him, he wasn’t interested. Her health wouldn’t allow it, so except for an occasional round of golf, Earl stuck close to home and shop.

Even the name of that shop was a reflection of the Millie’s nature. BB Archery is short for Basement Bandits or Backyard Bandits, which ever they decided to flaunt at the time. They ran their business out of their home, which I’m guessing didn’t always coincide with local ordinances.

But if Millie and Earl overcame that obstacle in opening their business, what chance did the competition have years earlier on the range against Millie? Little. Millie won a state championship, then nine Midwestern championships and eventually the national championship in 1976.

Health issues dogged her after that and in the mid ‘80s she lost a leg to disease. She never, however, lost her fighting spirit and turned her energy to introducing others to her sport. She was instrumental in creating the Independence Bowhunters and a life member of the Missouri Bow Hunters Association. Individually, she tutored hundreds of men and women. I became an avid bow hunter because of Millie and Earl. I shot my first “Robin Hood” (shooting an arrow into the shaft of another) in their shop and I have never shot an arrow that wasn’t made by Millie.

And although there have been marked improvements in archery equipment, I have used only one bow in my life … the one Earl and Millie set me up with many years ago. I would not want to shoot any of the latest models. Especially now.

And she loved the winter archery leagues that she and Earl oversaw from a Raytown commercial building. When the league was threatened with losing its lease, she became a pit bull to save it. I know because her adversaries told me so in so many words.

“We’ve loved archery … ate archery … sleep archery,” she said once in a reflective mood.  “That is our world, that is our life. We talk archery 24 hours a day. I can no longer do much except help the customer with shooting. That’s my limit. I can’t do more. I can’t participate in tournaments because I can’t walk that far. But I still have the love to teach.”

An indication of just how much respect there is for Millie Foster can be seen at Bass Pro in Independence. Even though Bass Pro (Goliath) and BB Archery (David) are something of competitors, the big box store honored Millie with her own tribute wall when Bass Pro opened several years ago. It’s down stairs, next to similar tributes to Harold Ensley and Virgil Ward. When Bass Pro officials put it up, she was the only living legend of the three.

On more than one occasion, I would take friends or relatives with me to the Foster’s shop – not to introduce them to archery, but to introduce them to the couple who operated it. One trip is especially memorable when I took my dad, who has a lot of “Millie qualities.” On our way, I mentioned to him that Millie, like my dad’s own father, had a leg prosthesis.

“A wooden leg?” he asked.

“Well, yeah … I guess you could say that,” I said.

“My dad had one, you know.”

“Yeah, I remember you telling me that. I’ve heard the story … but when we get there, let’s just stick to bows and arrows. OK?”

My dad … you just gotta love him.

When we walked in the door, he spotted Millie in her corner spot almost immediately even though he had never been there or met her. He made a bee line.

“Hey, Millie, I’m Roy Fox … my kid tells me a lot of good things about you.”

“Gene’s been with me a long time,” she said. “He’s a sweetheart.”

I blushed.

“Tells me you got a wooden leg  …  my dad had a wooden leg,” he said next.

I gasped.

“You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine!” Millie said with a big laugh, pulling up her pant leg.

Everybody laughed.

That was Millie … .my straight-talkin’ Annie Oakley and courageous Joan of Arc rolled into one.

God, I will miss her dearly.