Esther H. Messenger

Honored by:Jennifer, Brian, and Karin Messenger
Brick location:B:11  map

Esther Holycross Messenger (November 7, 1906-March 4, 1994) spent her life giving. Her faith kept her spirits up in the most difficult times and she was able to find good in people and situations she found unpleasant. She provided a positive influence for her children, her grandchildren, and a generation of elementary school children who learned from her.

Esther Holycross was born in Zanesfield, Ohio, and lived in northwestern Ohio for 87 years. The daughter of a college professor, she was involved with education all of her life. She graduated from West Liberty High School and received a teaching certificate from Logan County Normal School. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in public school music from Ohio Northern University in 1928, she taught music until 1935. She later did graduate work at Wittenberg University, Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University.

Her sister Miriam was also a music teacher, with degrees from Ohio Northern University and Ohio State University. They frequently appeared together as singers in a variety of solo and duet performances. She married William Messenger on June 9, 1935, and retired from teaching to raise a family.

Although she returned to teaching in 1951, her children remained the primary focus in her life. Her love of music and the importance she placed on education were great influences in the lives of her children. She had two sons: William of Seaford, Delaware, a chemical engineer, retired from DuPont Corporation with degrees from Case Institute of Technology and Ohio State University, and Joseph, professor of music at Iowa State University since 1969 with degrees from Bowling Green State University and the University of Iowa; and two daughters: Miriam, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, an elementary school teacher and travel consultant with a degree from Kent State University, and Lois, of New Caanan, Connecticut, an advertising executive with a degree from Northwestern University and additional study at Mt. Holyoke College. She had 10 grandchildren.

Esther Messenger and William Messenger were divorced in 1955 and she was left with the responsibility of providing for the three younger children still living at home. Although her teaching income provided financial security, she had learned to live on a sometimes meager budget while raising four children. She made many of the clothes she and her children wore and she learned to create appealing, nourishing meals from inexpensive components. She taught her children frugal financial planning, a skill that was to prove invaluable in their later lives.

After her children had left home, she continued with careful budgeting and was able to live with a quiet elegance and travel frequently on her teacher's salary and later on her retirement income. Esther had an unwavering Christian faith, and the church was a central part of family life. Although she was devastated by her divorce, she did not allow that deep hurt to come between her children and their father.

When her ex-husband, William, suffered the first of a series of strokes in 1960, she cared for him in her own home for several months until he was able to return to work and independent living. They remained on friendly terms and she often invited him to her home when the children visited her. When he was confined to a nursing home in 1981, she visited him frequently until his death in 1989. Her examples of faith, charity and compassion were models for her children and her friends.

She lived the life she believed and rarely preached or proselytized about her faith, although anyone who knew her knew the depth of that faith. Esther retired from teaching in 1976 and continued to live a full and active life. Failing eyesight limited her activities somewhat in her last years, although she was able to continue to live independently. She loved to travel and often visited her children, taking her first airplane trip when she was in her 70’s. Her church remained a central focus in her life and she was a regular volunteer in many activities. She had a wide circle of friends and enjoyed an active social life until her sudden death.

At her funeral, her grandchildren read a tribute which ended with a sentiment felt by all who knew her: "We remember Grandma. Grandma always remembered us."