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Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

31 August 2013

Esther Quinn (1924-2013) RIP

Clark @ 10:16 am

EstherQuinnEarly this morning, my mother died.  She’d been wanting to go;  having lost one leg to bad circulation and with continuing pain in the other for the same reason, her quality of life wasn’t great despite the loving care my brother and family provided.  She needed help to get around, and hated to impose.  She’d already outlived all her siblings, and fortunately her passing was relatively quick and painless.

She had led a most interesting life; she grew up in Germany in a slightly privileged family (with a few servants), including during the time of World War II.  The war was tough on the family; while one of her two twin brothers was lost to leukemia, the other lost his life as a fighter pilot.  Her firm but loving father was briefly imprisoned for not being an ardent proponent of Hitler, but as a community official the local townspeople advocated for his release.  Their house was bombed during the course of the war, but they had escaped to the countryside home of their family friends.  I remember my mom telling me about heading with a friend to that region, and ducking under trees at times to avoid planes machine-gunning the field!

She was anorexic for a time, and so had to spend time in the hills of Czechoslovakia to recuperate, escaping some of the war. She also studied nursing in Switzerland, again avoiding some of the carnage, and felt remorse in both cases.  She was also embarrassed about getting credit for not participating in a war-hawking May Day parade because the real reason wasn’t principled objection but instead that she didn’t want her birthday preempted.  For the rest of her life she was always looking to help others.  She was sympathetic to the disabled, as her father had lost his arm in the first world war, yet never let that slow him down.

After the war, she headed to the New York to stay with her aunt, and worked taking care of an elderly lady.  She grew tired of being cold, and headed west by bus. She almost stopped in New Mexico, but ended up continuing on to Los Angeles, where she worked in a hospital, and ended up meeting my father, Nives.  She never regretted leaving her native land and family, though she did miss them.

My folks got married, and she subsequently became a mother to me and then my brother Clif.  With no proximal family of hers, she had to become quite independent, also as my father worked long hours.  She kept us well fed, becoming a good cook and a strong advocate of natural foods long before such became popular.  A good education was also a priority, and she took us to museums regularly as well as advocating for summer school and other activities.  Frugal too (and occasionally penny-wise and pound-foolish, as she’d laughingly admit), our regular vacations were camping except for the occasional trips to Germany to visit her family.  And she was capable: she knitted us sweaters, sewed, gardened, and had a ‘can do’ attitude.

She eventually went back to nursing when we were old enough, and was a revered fixture in the local emergency room for many years (though we had to restrain her from telling injury tales at the dinner table).  She and my father remained active in politics and social efforts; after retirement they did considerable traveling but also volunteered time when home. She was always heading off to go shopping for the abused women’s shelter or to deliver something for somebody in need.   She also was continually restless, courtesy of an overactive thyroid gland, and it was a family joke that she’d say she was finally going to sit and watch a movie, but soon she’d be up making snacks or doing some other thing around the house.

The thing that I grew to recognize and appreciate was how much my mother was a people person. Our house regularly had visitors, often from far away.  My mom had the gift of really listening – she loved hearing others’ stories about life - and the next time she met you she would remember and ask.  And help if she could.  As a consequence, my folks always had invitations to visit, and people they met on their travels were always stopping through on their way elsewhere.

She never thought she was smart or wise, and yet she was both.  She cared and her varied experience and endless curiosity meant she often had something useful to say.  Her brain remained strong long after her body began to fail her.  Despite the travails of infirmities, she continued with good cheer.

She was gentle, kind, thoughtful, and good, and we were very very lucky to have her.  Rest in Peace.

54 Comments »

  1. Thank you Clark for such a nice write-up. Mom (Esther) moved into my house in the San Diego area about three years ago. She had a very nice private area for her and she loved it. We had a lot of time to sit and chat and it was so nice to really get to know my mom. For those who really knew her, like Clark said, she liked nothing better than to sit and chat with someone, and really LISTEN to what they had to say. Maybe that is why so many people loved to hang out with her. Mom loved maintaining my dad’s family tradition of Happy Hour. My brother and I are also faithful observers of this tradition when all work stops for awhile, and we all enjoy each others’ company. I will miss that with her.

    Mom loved living with a family (my wife Lee and two sons, Eli 15 and Gavin 13) and being a real part of a lively neighborhood. Many times she mentioned about how lucky she felt. You know she just had that attitude, like when after she had her one leg amputated three years ago, and one time she was just almost in tears of gratitude, and she said….. “I am so lucky. For over 85 years I could just walk anywhere I wanted to. I am truly a lucky person!”. That is from someone who just lost a leg!

    Anyway, we all have different beliefs, but I believe that last night she was greeted by the spirits of my dad, her sisters Elisabeth and Ruth, hopefully her long-ago brothers, and friends, etc… and they were all celebrating being pain-free and sipping champagne in a wonderful place. She was ready to go and be part of that group. I am so darn happy that she was my mom and I am glad that she is no longer in any pain. And thank you to all who loved her and enjoyed her company, she appreciated each and every one of you.

    Comment by Clifton (second son) — 31 August 2013 @ 11:45 am

  2. My sincere condolences, Clark. It’s wonderful that she lived a long life and that she had such a wonderful son to carry on her posterity. No matter what, though, it’s always a huge loss and sense of sadness when a parent dies, and I am very sorry.

    Comment by Joe Ganci — 31 August 2013 @ 12:01 pm

  3. It truly is a beautiful tribute, Clark.

    Comment by Joe Ganci — 31 August 2013 @ 12:05 pm

  4. Clark,
    A loving tribute. The loss of a mother is difficult, my sympathies to you and your family.
    Cindy

    Comment by Cindy (Andrich) Baker — 31 August 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  5. “She never thought she was smart or wise, and yet she was both.”

    I thought this was the most moving line in a very moving tribute. This has to be a sad loss for you, and for anyone who knew your mother. Thank you for sharing so many of the treasures from your life with her.

    Comment by Dave Ferguson — 31 August 2013 @ 2:23 pm

  6. What a beautiful tribute! Prayers sent your way…

    Comment by lydia haley — 31 August 2013 @ 8:31 pm

  7. My cousin Shannon, one of our dear family friends, said this on Facebook: “I lost my Aunt today…truly one of the nicest people I have ever known and definitely one of my favorite people on earth.
    I loved you, Esther Quinn. You made everyone welcome and comfortable in your presence – if I believed in Heaven, then you would be greeting those who entered and making them right at home…
    >; (”
    Thanks, Shannon

    Comment by Clark — 31 August 2013 @ 8:58 pm

  8. Some comments from childhood (and lifelong) friends that knew my mother, from over on Facebook:

    Guy Morgan: “Clark, I remember and really liked your mom. I always felt welcome in your home and your mom was a big reason for that. May she rest in peace”

    Jay Sak: “Clark, I am so sorry, I too always felt welcome in your home, your parents were always there for me. I truly appreicate the kindness and compassion they unselfishly gave.”

    Thanks, guys.

    Comment by Clark — 1 September 2013 @ 7:36 am

  9. I am so very sorry, Clark. I did not know your mom but I want you to know that I care about your pain. I know how awful it is to lose a parent. Your mom sounds like she was a terrific woman and she surely raised a terrific son. My sincerest condolences.

    Comment by Patti Shank — 1 September 2013 @ 8:49 am

  10. Clark and Clif,
    Great tributes from both of you! Having lived most of my life in the Midwest, I have seen you and your folks far too seldom through the years, but I always looked forward to visiting them (and more recently, her), enjoyed those visits and felt great about them afterwards. She was truly a wonderful, kind, loving, caring and giving person who will be sorely missed.

    Comment by Gary Witzenburg (nephew) — 1 September 2013 @ 11:24 am

  11. Clif & Clark — sincere condolences– Esther was a wonderful friend for over 40 years., a great , kind , supportive person. – I shall miss her very much even though we had not seen each other for about 4 years. I am so glad she is finally comfortable

    Comment by Marianne Brannon — 1 September 2013 @ 12:05 pm

  12. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss Clark. I want to echo the warm sentiments I’ve read from others. It sounded like your life was truly blessed to be raised by such a great woman. My thoughts are with you as you journey through this difficult time.

    Comment by Phil Cowcill — 1 September 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  13. We were shocked and saddened this morning to learn that Esther had passed away. We loved her. She was an admirable person in many ways–a sharp observer with a good wit, and so courageous in dealing with her losses. Our condolences to her family.

    Ed and Connie Henry

    Comment by Ed Henry — 1 September 2013 @ 3:37 pm

  14. Esther is someone I became acquainted with via being friends with your brother, Clif. She really was a wonderful person.

    It’s true that, time and again, in recent years, I heard Esther say, “I’m ready to go.” And, why not? She had a full life, as you mention, had lost a leg, had already outlived her husband and her siblings. Yet, for several years after Esther began saying, “I’m ready to go,” she lingered. Largely because she had such a pleasant living environment at Clif and Lee’s home, not only did she linger, but her quality of life remained really high right up to her final days.

    I was staying temporarily at Clif and Lee’s home one summer when you (Clark) wheeled Esther in, and she began identifying where she might spend her final years. She was determined to create a conversion bedroom space for herself – carried on a bit of a campaign to see that this selection was “approved” – and that became her comfortable home base during her final years.

    To me, it was a wonder to see her perk back up after having, just before this, spent time in an assisted living facility. I was impressed by Clif & Lee’s kindness during Esther’s adjustment period at their home. With time, it was also clear that Esther – even in the wheelchair bound condition of her final years – was contributing much to their household life and activity. As you indicate, Esther retained an amazingly sharp mind right up to the end of her life. I have had many private conversations with her in recent years. She was always alert, kind, well informed and interesting.

    Clif has been a wonderful friend of mine for many years. Though I haven’t known you as well, I’d say the fact that Esther and Nives raised two children as wonderful as you both are, is also quite a tribute. Esther was a very special person, that will live on in the hearts of many of us.

    Comment by Jim Wallerstedt — 1 September 2013 @ 4:48 pm

  15. So sad, Clark, yet a relief as well. A wonderful woman, a great story.

    Dear friend that you are, I appreciate you even more after reading this.

    jay

    Comment by Jay Cross — 1 September 2013 @ 11:48 pm

  16. Clark, Clif,
    Although I did not get to know your mother well, I loved every opportunity, and I appreciate your article so I can know her better.
    I am so sorry to hear about her passing.
    Tracy

    Comment by Tracy Witzenburg — 2 September 2013 @ 12:02 pm

  17. Cousin Michael Quinn wrote: “She was one of a kind. I can’t imagine her having had an enemy in the world, she had such a sweet, gentle, and loving spirit. Esther was my favorite aunt and times spent with her and Nives will always be counted amongst the highlights of my life.” and “She had such a profound effect on everyone who knew and loved her. A truly unique personality, your father was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”

    Comment by Clark — 2 September 2013 @ 4:15 pm

  18. Dear Clark and Clif,

    I am so sorry for your (our) loss. As you both know, I spent quite a bit of time growing up at your house in San Pedro and in many ways Esther was a second mother to me. It has been an honor for me to serve as her financial advisor for these last many years and it was such pleasure to see her generous spirit reach out to give so much to both of you. I have shed many tears of grief and joy since learning of Esther’s passing. Much like my mom, Esther seemed to have chosen her time of departure and she did so quite gracefully. I am a better person, a much better person, for having known you wonderful mother. We can all take a page from Esther’s book in how to take a genuine interest in the person we are with, to be absolutely present in the moments we are together and to ask the kind of questions that truly help us to know one another. I fear that with our electronic, social media, blog talk world, the art of being face to face with another human being and carrying on a meaningful conversation is falling by the wayside. Please accept my most sincere condolences and know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Much love,

    Martin

    Comment by Martin Shapiro — 3 September 2013 @ 9:18 am

  19. I just found your blog for the first time today, so we don’t know each other, but your tribute to your mother was so moving I just had to pass along my condolences. What a full and fascinating life. (And what an adorable face!) I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Jane — 3 September 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  20. My sincere condolences Clark, but my thanks also to you for the courage you show in writing such a moving obituary. All the best mate.

    Comment by Steve Wheeler — 4 September 2013 @ 2:31 am

  21. My condolences to Esther’s sons and their families. We of her Unitarian Universalist community were so sad to learn of Esther’s demise. She was a prominent member of our fellowship, jumped in and took on lots of important tasks. We all loved to be in her company. She told us wonderful stories in her inimitable way and listened just as intently. We all knew she was ready to go; she told us so, which makes it a little easier, but she and her twinkling eyes will be missed.

    I’m so grateful I knew her. I loved her.
    Leslie Robard

    Comment by Leslie Robard — 4 September 2013 @ 8:47 am

  22. What a beautiful, beautiful lady. She was a member of our Covenant Group at Summit. We will miss her presence and her knowledge and comments.

    Comment by Jan Pflimlin — 4 September 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  23. Prayers on the wind for dear Esther…a funny, smart and kind woman full of energy,,,and twinkling eyes! My heart goes out to you and prayers of comfort for you all. I will so miss her. She was very important to all of us at Summit!

    Comment by Lynn Manyfires — 4 September 2013 @ 3:23 pm

  24. Thank you for writing that beautiful tribute. I just met your mother just a couple of years ago. In the short time that our paths crossed, I remember that her calming presence, good listening skill, animated storytelling and positive, upbeat personality always made you want to spend more time with her. She truly was a beautiful human being and I send you and you family my deepest condolences.

    Comment by Christine Misoni — 4 September 2013 @ 3:26 pm

  25. Ester was an inspiration to so many of us at Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
    She was kind, interesting, wise, courageous and fun. We loved her.
    Our heartfelt condolences to your family.
    LaMar and Toni Rogers

    Comment by LaMar and Toni Rogers — 4 September 2013 @ 4:07 pm

  26. My family wants you to know how much Esther will be missed in our fellowship. I loved her stories, her wit, and her amazing spirit. We are so sorry for your loss. The piece you wrote about her for your blog was beautiful and truly honored her.
    Wishing you peace in healing,
    Glenn, Stacey, and Joshua Sasaki

    Comment by Stacey Sasaki — 4 September 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  27. Dear Clark, Clif, Lee, Eli and Gavin,
    I didn’t have enough time with Esther! I got to know her as I regularly picked her up to take her with me to our book club at Summit UU Fellowship. I also was having thyroid troubles at the time, and she was always so attentive and helpful! I know she was ready to go, and I told her I would miss her. Your lives were a result of her existence, but your characters are a testament to her spirit! My love to you all.

    Comment by Elly Dotseth — 4 September 2013 @ 5:48 pm

  28. Oh my, I can’t express my sorrow in the passing of one of my dearest and oldest friends. My condolences to Cliff and Clark and families. Esther was one of the most interesting woman I’ve ever met. She was inspirational. I tied to emulate her but couldn’t come close. She was so kind to me and my family.
    I remember her sharing old shoes to hang off the back off the car when we got married. And, she was so gracious to have my wedding shower at her home. And, the time Nives drove us both to LA to float in isolation tanks. she was a wonderful wild spirit. Ageless. She shared her time, attention and love and I will hold on to those memories.
    Esther, thank you for the zucchini bread, dinners, rocks, knitted sweaters, unusual cards, map of the world pin board…
    Most of all your friendship.
    Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Rojas — 4 September 2013 @ 8:35 pm

  29. Dear Clark and Clif;
    Thank you for your beautiful tributes to your mother which brought back the pleasant memory of hearing Esther read her manuscripts describing her life, loves and travels in our Memoir class. She was a very special lady. I greatly admire her profoundly caring ways and upbeat attitude which persisted even under trying circumstance. She was always eager to be helpful and even volunteered the Sunday before she died to help with ushering on Sundays at Summit. What a lady! I shall miss her.
    With deepest sympathy to all the family,
    Barbara Sorensen

    Comment by Barbara Sorensen — 5 September 2013 @ 11:45 am

  30. What wonderful stories about your mother…thanks for sharing…with love

    Comment by Bill Daul — 6 September 2013 @ 12:18 am

  31. Dear Clark, Clif, Lee, Eli and Gavin,
    Thank you for sharing information on Esther’s life. She willingly and lovingly shared her experiences in the many groups we attended at Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I think of her as one of my mentors on how to live life – fully, lovingly, and with gratitude. Clif and Lee, you also made it possible for Esther to fully engage in all our activities. She touched us, a lasting touch, which will be remembered with love and most fondly. Our deepest sympathy to your family. With much aloha,
    Hal and Pat Summers

    Comment by Hal & Pat Summers — 6 September 2013 @ 11:15 am

  32. Our relationships with Esther were priceless! Linus says she was like a little “Teutonic leprechaun”. In our many short trips to and from Summit gatherings, we heard colorful stories about camping and other world adventures with her husband. She always had a positive and wise outlook about life and world events, and showed deep caring about others.

    Her wonderful independent nature, even in a wheelchair, was evident. Many of us remember how she, after meetings at Summit, pushed chairs to the wall as others stacked them.

    Her spirit lingers in our hearts, and we send loving thoughts to her family.

    Jeanne & Linus

    Comment by Linus Senhen & Jeanne Hayes — 7 September 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  33. I was looking forward to seeing your mother at the SummitUU this morning. We shared May birthdays – her 89th and my 86th – at our age, the date didn’t matter. Although I only knew her for less than six months, she is a friend I will always remember. She is greatly missed.

    Comment by Doris Ashworth — 8 September 2013 @ 10:40 pm

  34. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to your mother. Esther and Nives were such a vital force in our Pacific Unitarian Church community over the many years we knew them. They both are remembered by our family with love.

    Comment by Betty & Victor Paieda — 12 September 2013 @ 8:17 am

  35. I am grateful that Esther is no longer in pain. Most of all I am grateful that I had the privilege of being in a Covenant group with them both at PUC. Both had amazing spirits. Esther was in our Women’s Fed group where she gave of herself tirelessly. She was a warm and loving hostess, always present with the person she was with. She had a way of making me feel special

    Comment by Betsy Walters — 12 September 2013 @ 9:18 am

  36. I echo the Paieda’s comments. I so enjoyed both your parents through my acquaintance with them at PUC. Thanks for the beautiful remembrance here. My sympathy on your loss.

    Comment by Joani Thompson — 12 September 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  37. I shall miss Esther’s wise comments during our Sunday talkbacks at Summit.
    A bright and brave presence in our community. We shall miss you Esther. Thank You
    for your devotion to us all. Gloria Gelineau

    Comment by Gloria Gelineau — 14 September 2013 @ 6:29 am

  38. And a high school colleague said: “So sorry for your loss. I remember your mom from a trip to the emergency room. She was so excited when I told her I knew you and Clif. She made me feel as though she adopted me in that moment! A true sweety. Love and hugs to you and Clif and your families.”

    Comment by Clark — 14 September 2013 @ 2:40 pm

  39. People like Esther are a vanishing breed. She volunteered her time, energy, resources, to do the daily tasks that I could no longer perform by myself for over a decade. Before I was shot down in the prime of my life, I chose to help those that were in need. Now the shoe was on the other foot. We were friends, to the end. I still have a postcard that she sent me not too long ago of the San Diego Harbor. Esther never complained about her problems. All I know is that the world is a lesser place without Esther.

    She was my friend. I will miss her.

    Paul Nussbaum

    Comment by Paul Nussbaum — 14 September 2013 @ 5:44 pm

  40. Thank you Clark and Clif for managing to advise those far and wide of your mother’s death. I first met your Mom and Dad “On the Road to Kathmandu” in 1981 and spent three months admiring your mother’s energy, humour, caring for others and especially her wonderful ‘can-do attitude’ Absolutely everyone loved having Esther in our midst and she and I have kept in touch with newsy Christmas letters, and later e-mails, ever since. Your mother was loving and much loved and sadly, there are far too few with her qualities, and especially now. Although out of sight, she has never been out of mind and I will miss knowing she is no longer with us but the priceless memories she and your Dad have left each of us will always cause us to smile…….long may they now travel together.

    Pat Dobie, Ottawa, Canada

    Comment by Pat Dobie — 16 September 2013 @ 6:51 am

  41. Clark and Clif….only just heard this very sad news. I met your mother in 1981 with a friend, Con, when we were travelling in the USA during our student years in UK after working at a summer camp (Clif knew Con from University). She opened her house to us, supplied us with a supply of food and beer and looked after us until Clif returned from a fishing trip with his Dad. We were strangers…but never felt like it. She was one of the most remarkable women I have ever met. We kept in touch and visited again in 1987….once again staying overnight as we were passing through. Since then, we have kept in touch with cards at Christmas and postcards from our travels or vacation home in Sarasota. I always hoped to see her again and take my wife Valerie to meet her,,,sadly it was not meant to be. A sad loss for you both and , of course, everyone else who knew her. God bless and rest in peace.
    Mike and Valerie Grime, Cheshire, United Kingdom

    Comment by Michael Grime — 17 September 2013 @ 10:37 am

  42. Clark and Clif
    We will really miss Esther. Her spirit inspired all of us to help others and live well. Our condolences to the the entire family.
    Peace
    Jack and Mary Ellen Shu

    Comment by Jack and Mary Ellen Shu — 17 September 2013 @ 1:38 pm

  43. Being the next door neighbors to Clif, Lee, Eli, and Gavin, our family had the absolute priveledge to spend time with Esther quite often. She was SUCH a wonderful lady, always caring, and yes, always willing to listen. She asked questions and was always genuinely interested in what we had to say. My girls (12 and 6) adored her, and had the opportunity to check in on her when her family was away on vacations. She was always happy to see them. My oldest commented today when the UPS man arrived to deliver a package at our house, she figured he was going next door to deliver to Esther, as Gavin had told my daughter once how she was always getting packages. I will miss seeing her getting the mail from the mailbox, pulling weeds in the front yard, doing laundry in the garage, or being picked up by many friends who would come to take her out. What a life she led indeed! We will miss you Esther, very much. Thank you for making our lives so much richer.

    The Huntsman Family

    Comment by Terri Huntsman — 17 September 2013 @ 8:24 pm

  44. Clif, It was a blessing for me to know your mother Esther for the short time that I did. The moment that I met her and talked to her I sensed a great kindness and wisdom about her, especially at her age I was blown away how intelligent she seemed and how she kept informed by reading books and attending church to stay active in social events and staying connected to people. Needless to say I was quite impressed by her intelligence and optimism. I especially enjoyed when you and I played our guitars and sang a few songs for her in your backyard on those few occasions, how she really loved the music and it made me feel very welcomed, I’ll always remember that. For now though, I know she’s in a much better place, back home in the spirit world being the angel that she is.

    Comment by Mike Flores — 17 September 2013 @ 10:06 pm

  45. Our sincere condolences, Clark and Clif. Esther was a longtime and wonderful friend to our family since wartime. Familys were visiting each other. Now we are very sad together with you, but she will always be in mind. Eberhard Jaschinski, Ursula Jaschinski and Elisabeth Gütschow, geb. Jaschinski

    Comment by Elisabeth Gütschow — 18 September 2013 @ 12:36 am

  46. I LOVE the photo of Esther. Thank you for sharing it with us! Esther was always OPEN and curious, and she loved People and Life. Her presence has been a blessing ~ a gift for which I am grateful. It’s an honor to have worked with her and to have shared friendship, stories, tears, more laughter and little adventures and AHAs and to take in her wisdom and spark. Esther leaped into Life and brightened it for us all. She was so smart! Esther, you are in my Heart always ~ I, along with the rest of the world, love you. Michele

    Comment by Michele Mattingly — 18 September 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  47. clark, clif & family

    I looked so forward to chatting with Esther over the years and will miss our visits. She was so interesting, & vibrant to listen too. Her energy and love of life never seemed to stop. She was definitely a lady to be admired. sincere condolences.

    jean downs, Southampton ontario

    Comment by jean downs — 22 September 2013 @ 6:25 am

  48. Esther was an original. One of very few I’ve known who would be so constant, at so easy to be with and so adaptable. If only we could replicate her, the world would be a saner place.

    Gloria Nussbaum

    Comment by Gloria Nussbaum — 22 September 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  49. Dear Clif and Clark, It has taken me a while to write to convey my deep sorrow at Esther’s passing. She was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I can hardly believe she’s gone (although I know she’s been “ready” for awhile). I am so grateful that my son Adrian and I made the trip out to California last summer (2012) and had a chance, along with Anna, to visit Esther. I thought it might be the last time I would see her, and was glad it was such a good (if too short) visit. My mind and heart are flooded with so many memories of Esther from my childhood. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. I always felt she saw the best in me, and really saw me for who I am. She made me feel special; and I know I wasn’t alone in experiencing that from her. She was beloved by so many people. She remembered my birthday every year, and sent sweet, thoughtful cards (often with snoopy stickers on them) always full of kind wishes as well as interesting things she was up to or what she had noticed in her environment. She was insightful and observant of people and places. I still have some letters and cards from her that I will always treasure, as they are filled with that lovely Esther-ness. When I think of Esther I remember that mischievous side of her that saw the humor in human nature. Somewhere, in an old box of photos, Anna and I have a b & w photo of Esther from a long-ago Quinns and Kellers camping trip. That picture captured her mischievous grin. Another photo from that trip is of a young Clark, grinning into the camera with a frog cupped in his muddy hands, so that’s how long ago that was! When I was a girl I always loved visiting your folk’s home on Crestwood Street. Esther always gracious, offering delicious things to eat and drink, what a fabulous cook and baker she was. She was also a peacemaker, smoothing over potential conflicts between our Dads (esp after they’d had a few drinks) with her warm laughter and comments. I remember coming to your house on Christmas Eves, how Esther brought her German tradition of opening some gifts the night before Christmas (I always envied you boys growing up with that tradition!).
    I am so glad, Clif, that Esther was able to live out her last years in your home. I know that meant so much to her, to be close by family. Your mother was a true friend to my mom Eva, loyal and devoted right up to the end of mom’s life 10 years ago.
    I am honored and immensely grateful to have known Esther. Her life was a gift to this world – and there will never be anyone like her.

    Cleo Keller

    Comment by Carrie "Cleo" Keller — 23 September 2013 @ 2:14 pm

  50. Another friend of my parents, Mariann Mueck, wrote this:

    I was so sorry to hear about your Mom. I feel in my heart that she is now with your Dad. I send you my sympathy because I know the sorrow that comes as you keep on missing her. I was very fond of your parents and worked with them at the church. My husband and your Mom also saw each other at the San Pedro hospital where they volunteered. I have wonderful memories of the times we spent at their home hearing about their truly exciting trips around the world. That map covered with pins is still visible to me. We all laughted and continued to be amazed at their harrowing travels.

    Comment by Clark — 4 October 2013 @ 6:54 am

  51. Dear Clark and Clif, so many weeks after Esthers “going-home” I found your mail. She followed her sister Elisabeth very soon.
    May both be happy in eternity.
    Esther was the most wonderful Person I ever have met!!!!
    With love
    Maria from München

    Comment by Maria Noehmeier — 18 October 2013 @ 8:07 am

  52. Dear Clifton and Clark
    we are your aunt Elisabeth’s friends from Verona in Italy. Clif,if you remember, we met in the occasion of your aunt’s commemoration in Munich. We’ve heard about your mother’s passing away; she followed her sister very soon, but now they are together at last!
    You are certainly sad for this great loss, but you have to be happy and proud to have had such a special mother!
    We didn’t have enough time to know her well during her short stay in Verona, but Clark’s tribute let us appreciate her better and see how many characteristics she shared with her sister Elisabeth.
    May both of them rest in peace!

    Anyway we can’t forget some amusing episodes happened during her stay for a couple of nights at Tino and Luigina’s house, where Elisabeth usually stayed when she came to Verona.
    Your parents went to sleep in the attic that is very close to the bell tower of the church.In the morning when Luigina asked them if they had slept well , they answered the bed was fantastic, but they couldn’t sleep at all because the bells had rung every hour.
    Then they told them of their strange and unconfortable journey from Il Cairo to Joannesbourgh on an old and not confortable lorry at all after having rented their cosy house :The ring of the bells wouldn’t have stopped them!
    They were very great people!
    With our sincere condolences

    Luigina e Tino Verdari, Laura e Gianni Zanardo

    Comment by Laura Gianni Tino Luigina — 27 October 2013 @ 10:52 am

  53. Dear Clif and Clark -

    My sincerest condelence on the passing of your mother. I just came across Clark’s tribute and I wanted to express my sorrow for her passing.

    We spent many years growing up together on Crestwood Street, and your home was like my “second home” when we were kids.

    I feel bad that we lost touch but I wanted to let you know that your parents were outstanding and loving people and both of them had an enormous and positive impact on me personally.

    Your mother was a wonderful person. Rest in Peace

    Comment by Jim Stern — 26 December 2013 @ 4:43 pm

  54. I met Esther and Nives in 1981 when we were together on Sundowners 3-month international camping trip, London to Kathmandu via Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries. We had been exchanging Christmas letters ever since, and I learned of her death only this past week when I phoned her son’s home to find out why she hadn’t written.

    Though the oldest in our Sundowners’ camping group, Esther and Nives were dynamos, who could leave the rest in their dust, particularly Esther. Tiny and sparrowlike, she was always on the move. When the tour ended in Kathmandu, they weren’t finished, but went on to visit Darjeeling, Calcutta and the Philippines on their own, something it has taken me 30 years to accomplish.

    I traveled with them again in 1986 on Goways 2-month camping tour around South America. We were on an old American school bus on its last legs, that kept breaking down and finally died in the Atacama Desert of Chile. But we kept on going on public transportation to our final goal of Quito, Ecuador.

    We kept in touch with Christmas letters and postcards, and I stopped several times when en route south to see them in their lovely home on Crestwood Street in San Pedro. It had a gorgeous view of the lights of the city and harbor below, but the thing that was best for me was how they tastefully incorporated the souvenirs from their travels in the decor. I recognized some of the pieces, because I had been there too, and I loved that. Esther always made a guest feel welcome, with homemade cookies and some special souvenir by the bed.

    The last time I saw them was when they were living in a mobile home just about one year before Nives’ death. I stayed with them one night on my way to Pasadena to see the Rose Bowl Parade. The mobile home was very large and nice, but I felt sad that they had given up their lovely home in the hills. I guess the price was so good, they couldn’t resist.

    After Nives died, Esther sold the mobile home and moved to San Diego to live near her son’s family. I am glad she could spend her last years with her family.

    I always thought she and Nives had it all, an example of a life well spent. JUNE JOVAN

    Comment by June Jovan — 1 January 2014 @ 1:43 pm

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