Esther-Jean Nichols Parker
Esther-Jean Nichols Parker
August 19, 1926–December 2, 2019
On August 19, 1926, Esther-Jean Nichols was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, to Ernest Nichols and Winifred Riggs Nichols. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas, when Esther was an infant, and then to New York City when she was five years old. In New York, Ernest worked for many years as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital and Winifred taught piano and voice at the Metropolitan Opera House. The family was members of the 15th Street (Quaker) Meeting. Esther was the youngest of four children that included two brothers, Lindley and Herbert, and one sister, Ernestine. Esther was proud of her Quaker heritage, and she loved New York City with its tall skyscrapers, subway system, cultural opportunities (especially Carnegie Hall), and beautiful Central Park. When Esther was a teenager she worked at Macy’s and regularly attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. After moving to the Midwest, she faithfully watched the parade every year, joyfully remembering the happy days of her childhood in the city she loved.
During World War II, a friend from Esther’s church arranged a blind date for her with a young man who while serving his country in the Merchant Marine was in New York, far from his home in Pittsville, Wisconsin. Esther was immediately drawn to Arnold with his kind and caring ways and his wavy red hair. And Arnold fell in love with Esther-Jean who believed in him from the start, encouraged him and soon loved him without reservation. He loved to hear her sing and thought she had the voice of an angel. Their faith in God and in one another would last through 68 years of marriage. When Arnold felt called to the ministry, Esther agreed to leave their comfortable home in Levittown and move to Chicago where Arnold attended Bible College. Their marriage would often face severe financial tests, but their faith in God and in one another would sustain them and give them great joy that they shared unreservedly with those around them.
Six years ago, God called Arnold home to be with him. That night, Esther’s granddaughter (Heather Jeffers Zahner) laid beside her grandma in bed. She held Esther’s hand, comforting this precious grandma who had been her comforter throughout the tender years of childhood. Esther’s children and grandchildren worried about her that night, and wondered how she would go on.
Esther spent the final years of her life at Atrium Post Acute Care in Wisconsin Rapids. Throughout her days there, despite many physical challenges, Esther looked for ways to encourage others. She became the family cheerleader, continually praising the efforts of her children and grandchildren. She loved every visit from family and friends. She was grateful for emails, phone calls, and books that others sent to enrich her life (so many sent by her dear niece, Elizabeth Parker Allen). Esther enjoyed the company of old friends and dear ladies who make it their ministry to visit nursing home residents regularly. She was deeply appreciative of the kind workers at Atrium who cheerfully and tenderly cared for her. She thanked them profusely and meant it from the bottom of her heart. She treasured the visits and special attention given to her by Heartland hospice caregivers and volunteers.
At this bittersweet moment Esther’s family mourns their loss but celebrates her happiness as she has met her Savior and been reunited with Arnold, and many other cherished family and friends who have been waiting for her. Esther is survived by one son: Jonathan (Nancy); two daughters: Winnie (Gary) Jeffers, Claudia (Andrew) Kikuta; 5 granddaughters: Heather, Tiffany, Jessica, Angela, Bethany; 6 grandsons: Christopher, Gary II, Daineal, Corey, Micah, Steven, all of their spouses and many loving great grandchildren.
On Sunday, December 8, from 1:00–4:00 p.m., Esther-Jean’s family and friends are invited to gather at John J. Buettgen Funeral Home, 631 E. Grand Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids, to share joyful memories together, sing some of the hymns Esther loved so much, and pay tribute to a dear and special person whose life was a blessing to so many.