C. William Foust

May 27, 1952 ~ September 5, 2020 (age 68)


MCFARLAND—C. William “Bill” Foust passed away on Saturday, September 5, 2020.

Bill was born on May 27, 1952 in Bethlehem, PA, to Alan and Elizabeth (Aigler) Foust. He was the youngest of four children. He left Bethlehem to attend the University of Wisconsin in 1970, and became a Badger for life. 

Bill received his  BA and Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. In 1978 he began his legal career working as a prosecutor in the Dane County District Attorney's Office.  He married Melissa Cherney on July 31, 1982, and moved to Milwaukee where he worked for the State Public Defender Office. His time as a Public Defender helped to shape his understanding of the criminal justice system’s impact on individuals. Bill and Melissa returned to Madison and he was in private practice until he ran for and was elected Dane County District Attorney in 1988.  He loved that job and viewed his duty as a search for justice, not just as an opportunity to gain convictions. Bill remained District Attorney until his appointment as a Dane County Circuit Court judge in 1997, where he served until his retirement in 2016. During that time, he was honored to serve as Chief Judge of Wisconsin’s 5th Judicial District and was elected by his peers as Wisconsin Chair of the Chief Judges.

Although his professional career was very important to him, Bill had other passions, the most significant being his love and devotion to his family. He loved and was so very proud of his sons, Kyle and James. He and Melissa had a wonderful life together, and fully enjoyed their retirement; traveling, volunteering, playing tennis, and enjoying their home on the lake in McFarland. They loved the Lake Chapala area of Mexico, where they bought a home.

Bill is remembered as an indomitable but exceedingly fair presence in the courtroom and as a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He is survived by and will be greatly missed by his wife Melissa Cherney; children Kyle (Jacqueline) Foust and James Foust; granddaughter Francine Foust; sister Patricia (Bill) Hoppe; and many other nieces, nephews, and dear friends and former colleagues. The family is forever grateful to Agrace Hospice for their loving care in Bill’s last weeks. 

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, and his siblings Alan (Kari) Foust and Carolyn (Charles) Klebe.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Bill’s name to The Remington Center Foundation at the University of Wisconsin, which supports clinical programs in the area of criminal justice.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

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You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family


The Frank J. Remington Center
c/o University of Wisconsin Foundation US Bank Lockbox 78807, Milwaukee WI 53278-0807

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