By Mary O’KEEFE
he fourth wall is a theatre description of separation between the actor and the audience. I have used that term when referring to journalism, keeping my emotion and opinion out of the story. I am normally pretty good at not crossing the fourth wall but in this story I have found it impossible because I am writing about a woman who was inspirational, kind and a community icon.
Esther Norbut and her husband Don are at the foundation of why the Crescenta Valley community is known for its Mayberry description. The couple is at every community event from the CV Town Council meetings to veterans ceremonies. Esther threw her support behind several organizations including the nearest and dearest to my heart – Prom Plus. She recently completed a beautiful quilt that we auctioned off to raise funds.
Esther, 92, passed away due to complications of a stroke on Nov. 18. On Nov. 11 she and Don, a World War II veteran, attended the Veterans’ Day event at Two Strike Park. As was usual she and Don were hand in hand.
“We met by a mutual friend. She was working at a school for the mentally and physically [disabled]. I was doing some work, some carpentry. A friend introduced us,” Don said. “A few months later we eloped in Las Vegas … It was love at first sight.”
And that love lasted 59 years.
“She died a day after our 59th wedding anniversary. I think she waited for that,” Don said. “She was such an outgoing person. In fact, the first month we lived here she volunteered as the Welcome Wagon Woman. Anything anyone would ask she said, ‘I will do it.’”
For any cynics who have doubts of the possibility of a loving, respectful relationship, they only had to look at Don and Esther. They held hands and would laugh at little private jokes as if they were teenagers. If one was walking in front of the other, there would always be a little turn to make certain the other was nearby.
When asked what he could say about Esther, Don said, “Gosh there is so much and so little space in the paper.”
But CVW has reserved some space for those who knew Esther and wanted to share their respect and sorrow of her passing:
Robin Goldsworthy, CVW Publisher
Esther loved the community. She and Don could be found at just about every community event. Over the years she would send me notes about the paper, what she liked and what she thought needed improving. Many of those suggestions have been folded into the Crescenta Valley Weekly making it an even better paper.
Robbyn Battles, CV Town Council President
A word about Esther and Don.
Council always referred to them as Mr. & Mrs. La Crescenta. Don and Esther always gave their unwavering support for our community and Council. They were a fixture at our meetings and if they were not there we would always ask and make sure they were both okay. Meetings always started with a big hug from both of them even if it meant starting the meeting a few minutes late. Their encouragement and support was greatly appreciated and respected.
They were like another set of grandparents and when I would especially stick my neck out on an issue they would pull me aside and give me encouragement and support. They did not have to do this; this was simply the type of people they are. Esther will be profoundly missed and we as a Council and as individuals will be there to make sure Don is taken care of. That is what this community does and this is what we will do for Don in Esther’s memory. Esther was a very special lady.
Danette Erickson, former CVTC member, Friends of the Library member
What a great, kind lady she has been to our community. Everyone thinks of her and Don as their friends.
Esther made the most beautiful quilts and table runners. I bring my Christmas one out each year and will always remember the kind lady who made it. She also made pull apart cinnamon cake, which was a delight at our New Year’s Eve parties over the years.
Esther and Don were everywhere and did everything. Once I took her and another “90-year-old” friend, Ellie Pipes, to the Tearoom in Montrose. They were the friendliest, fun ones there, delightful ladies full of good times.
Esther and Don rode down the Montrose Christmas Parade in the ASTER car as the grand senior citizens! They were at historical society meetings, Chamber functions, American Legion affairs where Don was saluted, which made Esther so proud.
A banner hung on Foothill to salute her son Gerald who served in the military. When Gerald was battling cancer it was almost impossible for her to fly to him in Florida, but she did. Her only wish was to be closer to his family because his children grew up long distances from Esther and Don.
As our new L.A. County library was being built the Norbuts would walk over daily to take pictures of the progress. This picture story of the library rising up at their corner was seen by all who visited the library in the beginning. Our librarian, Marta Wiggins, cried when she announced at the town council meeting that Esther passed that day. In fact, we all cried in our own way for she touched so many with her quiet, kindness and love for others.
We met many times at Kaiser or Verdugo Hills medical talks. Don took good care of his beloved Esther and now we must all take good care of Don for Esther.
Steve Pierce, former president of CVTC, former CV Chamber of Commerce president and Community icon in his own right
and close friend of the Norbuts.
I first met Esther & Don at a CV Town Council meeting at the Sheriff’s Station … before I was on Council. We immediately hit it off and have remained close ever since that first meeting.
Esther was incredibly sharp and intelligent. Though she was 93 she remembered everything. She had a gift for writing and enjoyed taking notes at the town council meetings. She once wrote an essay for a contest and won a house . . . yes, an actual house. She was that good of a writer.
Esther was an amazing seamstress and quilter. She did beautiful work and produced quilts in half the time it took others who were much younger. Her work was well known in the community and she often gifted her quilts to organizations for their fundraising projects.
Esther loved going to City Hall Cafe and Montrose Bakery for breakfast. The cooks would always do something special for her … making silly designs or happy faces with the pancakes or sauces. Everyone loved Esther.
Esther was gracious, polite and cordial … she would always drop whatever she was doing to sit down and chat with guests. She made you feel special when dropping by the house. And she always had a bowl of assorted nuts or a snack to offer her guests along with the beer Don would have available. Esther didn’t drink herself but she enjoyed watching others having a good time … especially chatting politics or talking about community issues.
Esther and Don were given the title of “The Grandparents of the Crescenta Valley.” Everyone knew them as Grandma and Grandpa. I will especially miss Esther when visiting Don at his house. She was always there by Don’s side.
Esther Caroline Norbut was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Los Angeles in 1953. She worked as an occupational therapist until 1975 at health centers in L.A. and at Glendale Adventist Hospital.
She and Don moved to La Crescenta with their children Jerry and Nancy in 1972. Esther became active in genealogy and worked for the Genealogical Society Library. Her interest included working on her award winning quilts. She was a member of the Friends of the Library and The Glendale Quilt Guild.
She is survived by her husband Don, daughter Nancy, son-in-law Jeff, daughter-in-law Doreen and two grandsons Kyle and Sean. Her son Jerry preceded her in death.
There were no services and in lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the charity of your choice in her name.