World War II veteran Foster H. Nystrom is congratulated by North Berkshire Veterans Agent Stephen Roy on his 100th birthday.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Foster H. Nystrom made a name for himself with his watercolor paintings, mostly of rural New England and seascapes of Cape Cod.
But on Saturday, perhaps his most important work was recognized during a celebration of his 100th birthday (March 29, 1913) at Sweet Brook Care Centers with friends and family.
It was nearly 70 years ago that Nystrom flew above the North Apennines in a two-seater plane, sketching the mountainous terrain.
He applied his painting and sculptural studies to the task of making maps and recreating the Italian mountain range in a meticulously modeled "sand map" more than 20 feet long for use in the Allied push north toward the Balkans and Austria.
North Berkshire Veterans Agent Stephen Roy read the commendation awarded to Nystrom at the time for his diligence and devotion that "greatly contributed" to the success of the mission.
"Working unusually long hours, he labored with uncanny accuracy to prepare model terrain features to scale," ready Roy.
Nystrom said he and other spent months creating the massive three-dimensional model for use in planning the offensive.
"They could see on the sand table exactly what they would encounter in the terrain as they moved through the Apennines," he said.
At age 100, Nystrom is believed to the one of the oldest, if not the oldest, World War II veteran in the state. "He's a member of a very exclusive group," said Roy.
Nystrom entered the service after attending the Massachusetts College of Art and the Pratt Institute. He started as an illustrator at Rust Craft Card Co. in Boston and later worked with a number of museums, retiring as associate director and head of the museum school at the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln. He moved to Orleans in the 1970s and started an art school.
He lived on his own until a few years ago, when he moved to Sweet Brook to be closer to his daughter, Cynthia McFarland of Williamstown. Also attending the party was his daughter Joyce Powell, in-laws and grandchildren.
Nystrom was recognized for his long career as a painter two years ago by Sweet Brook with its first annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
In between his painting, he restored antique cars and enjoyed tooling around Boston in a Pierce Arrow, said his son, Paul Nystrom, who told his father, "you've been a great dad."
The elder Nystrom laughed at the classic car stories, and recalled some of his adventures with his other favorite pastime — skiing. He used to take the ski train to Adams to ski down Mount Greylock on the old Thunderbolt Trail and recalled time spent at the Franz Josef ski center after the war in Europe ended.
"I'd have to start way way back, a million years ago when I got I out of the military," he said, when asked to speak about his life.