Remembering Louisville Water’s Nell Foresman

Accounting employee with a love for her green office chair

Will you request to take your office chair with you when you retire? Well Louisville Water employee Nell Jacobs Foresman asked her boss for it when she left the company in 1995 after 33 years.

In her note to her boss, she told him that she had become very attached to her “little green office chair” and went on to say the chair “allowed her to do her very best thinking” and that she “simply could not leave without it. If ‘the chair’ goes I go. If ‘the chair’ stays, I stay. How do I do this and stay an honest woman?”

While this was not a typical request, this is probably the way someone in accounting would go about this unusual ask. Foresman started at Louisville Water in 1962 as a bookkeeper in the accounting department.

She was one of about 50 women working at Louisville Water out of a total of 368 employees at that time.

The road to her finance career was not an easy one. Foresman was born in 1933 in Lexington, Kentucky and attended Henry Clay High School. She had no desire to go to college until her SAT scores came back and her principal suggested that she talk to her parents about attending college. According to the PBS series American Experience, not many women were considering college in the 1950s.

“At the time, her father was ill and could not commit to paying for college, therefore, my grandmother applied for the Hughes Scholarship Fund and received full tuition with a few dollars left over for books at the University of Kentucky,” explained Joanna Brunner, one of Foresman’s grandchildren. “Tuition was $65 a semester.”

While attending UK, Foresman was a member of Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary accounting organization. She also worked part time in the chemistry department, typing and taking dictation. She graduated with a major in accounting four years later in 1955. Foresman them came to Louisville for her first job. She joined the Reynolds Metals Company as the first female in their accounting department. Then she joined Louisville Water. She started as the general bookkeeper, was promoted to the manager of accounting department in 1976, and then was named Assistant Secretary Treasurer.

Her Louisville Water supervisor, Robert Miller, spoke of Foresman at her retirement party, which gives a glimpse into this woman’s time at the company.

“Time passes so quickly and before long it will be Monday morning. We can imagine that we will be talking about how much we enjoyed Nell’s retirement dinner. And yet, because time passes so quickly, there will be new employees who did not know Nell. If they ask who is this person called Nell, someone might answer, ‘She is an accountant’s accountant.’ Someone else might answer, ‘She is that blonde who is into yoga and new age ideas.’ Another might say, ‘She is really into health food and exercise.’ Still another might say, ‘She is the lady who went to the Galleria for chocolate ice cream every afternoon.’ While each of these descriptions is correct, in its own little way, they do not truly describe who Nell is. Because she is more than that, for she is all of that and so much more….”

Brunner said that when her grandmother retired, she had five things she wanted to do: get a computer, plant a rose garden, exercise more, travel more, and dance more.

Nell Foresman“She was successful at all of these, and dancing became her true passion,” said Brunner. “She was a part of a senior tapping group called the ‘Rockerettes.’ Additionally, Foresman loved to walk for exercise. She could be seen carrying a plastic bag to pick up litter along Wolf Pen Branch Road in Prospect. For her hard work, the mayor’s office honored her with the “Good Neighbor” Award.

Foresman passed away July 25, 2021. She is survived by two sons, John and Greg, and four grandchildren.

And did her boss let her have her ‘little green office chair’? Indeed, he did.

Nell Foresman’s granddaughter Joanna Brunner provided the information and photographs for this story. She is a Professional Engineer for the state of Kentucky and serves as a Senior Management Consultant in the business advisory service line for the water sector of Arcadis North America. Her expertise is focused on developing sustainable strategies and effective innovation programs at water and wastewater utilities. Brunner’s sister also followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and is an accountant for Tempur-Sealy.