This photograph of Esther Wooley was on her husband Richard Wooley’s desk for the past several decades. They were the legendary, inseparable couple of Sun Valley and he preceded her in death by a mere two months.
Esther Wooley died at Easter time, April 21, 2014, a fitting season for that, as not only did she believe in the resurrection and the life of things to come, she loved holidays and their deeper meanings.
Esther was born on Nov. 15, 1917, amidst a world at war and time of change for women. She grew up in Detroit, Mich., and there she attended business college and trained to be a secretary. She got a job at United Chromium Inc., where she met her husband of 68 years, Dick. They moved to Los Angeles, Calif., and raised their two daughters, Susan and Cynthia.
Esther excelled at motherhood. Every day was a new adventure: from trips to the park or beach, or to the theater to see the latest movie or just an outing to Schwab’s for strawberry shakes. At Christmastime, the girls were greeted by the scent of baking cookies as they arrived home from school. These cookies were boxed, beribboned and distributed to everyone from the mailman to cherished neighbors who became the girls’ uncles, aunts and godparents. Esther made time to talk with everyone—that was always paramount—and many a soul was unburdened while having heart-to-hearts with her.
Like a combination of “Leave it to Beaver” and “Petticoat Junction,” the neighborhood was filled with friendships for Esther and Dick and play pals for their daughters. They took the girls to visit the national parks and family back in Michigan when they could. Later came trips to Europe, Hawaii and Mexico, and summers were spent at Lake Tahoe and the beach. Esther and Dick moved to Sun Valley in the late 1980s, and found a new blossoming of friendships, Friday dinners at their beloved Pioneer and a strong connection with St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Her daughters were both married, which gave her great pleasure, one in a ceremony on the Wooley’s deck just last summer. Esther was very happy and proud to have a granddaughter, Kylee, who completed her junior year abroad in Scotland this spring.
The most important thing to say for a good many years now has been: I love you. Esther and Dick said it to each other every night before they went to sleep. Her daughters, sons-in-law and granddaughter followed suit from Tucson and Albuquerque. It stretched like an invisible banner between them until the next phone conversation or visit. Her last years found new friendships with caregivers, who ranged from their 20s to 60s and gleaned much from her words of wisdom. In the hospital and everywhere she went, everyone remarked on what a lady she was. She never missed a thank you to the nurses. While receiving last rites, the minister remarked on how elegant and graceful she was while stretching out her arms and following along with The Lord’s Prayer. She was a lovely lady, and we remember her hands; they have taken on a new significance, so beautiful, the hands that restrained us in a high chair or car seat, even when the seat belt was on. The hand I held as she passed from this world.
We will miss her comforting hand on our foreheads, her serene presence and her words of advice, such as to “stay in your center” when leaving for school or work. Thank you for all you did for us and for everyone you met along the way of your lovely life, dear Mom.
Esther is survived by her two daughters, Susan Hamilton and Cynthia Wooley; sons-in-law Vernon Hamilton and Alan Gilmore; and granddaughter Kylee Hamilton.
Esther’s memorial service will be held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at 2 p.m. A reception with refreshments will follow at 3 p.m.