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Esther Helene Kieper
Albert Kieper and his wife Anna were born in Germany. They came to America while they were still a very young couple. Albert Kieper worked at the Veroa Mining Company in northern Michigan in a little town called Amasa.
On March 5th, 1909, they had a little girl, which they named Esther Helene Elizabeth. She was the 7th in a line of 9 children. Life was hard in the mining community and Esther's father died when she was only 15.
Because Anna couldn't raise the children by herself, she moved to Indiana to be closer to her older children and their families. This was in the early days of the depression and money was in short supply. So Esther had to quit high school and find a job to help support the family. She found a job as a clerk in a grocery store and while working there, caught the eye of a young gentleman, who had been delivering stock to the store. The young fellow was named Bill Wann and at the time he was a little shy - so while he was trying to build up his courage to ask Esther out for a date, he would come into the store every day and buy a loaf of bread. We don't know if he couldn't eat any more bread or if his stock of bread was getting to high, but he finally gathered his courage and asked Esther out for a date.
That date led into an elopement on June 27, 1928, in Valparaiso, Indiana and 56 years of married life. Those 56 years were filled with excitement, hard work and many challenges.
They started out in Hammond, Indiana where their three daughters, Margaret Jean, Anna May and Frances Helene were born. Around 1939, an opening at an electrical substation in a suburb of Gary, Indiana came up. Bill got accepted and the family packed up and moved to Aetna. In Aetna, their son Bill, Jr. came into the world and plans were made to buy property and build a big colonial house. They first built a 2-car garage and made it into living quarters, where the family was to live while they built their dream home. But their plans were changed when World War II broke out. The house plan was shelved and Esther went to work in a munitions plant. During that time, a project was started in a town called Hanford, Washington. They were advertising for electricians and offering excellent pay. Bill heard about the job and decided it was too good to pass up. So he applied and got accepted.
So against relatives concerns that they were going out to "live with the Indians", Esther and Bill packed up and headed west. They had no idea Richland was in a desert and Esther learned about dust storms the hard way. The dust came in through the windows, where it piled high on the sills and she didn't own a vacuum cleaner. So wanting to have a little more spending money, Esther went to work at Kadlec Hospital as a telephone operator, and eventually went to work for one of the OB doctors as a medical secretary.
The war ended and things settled down in Richland. In 1953, Bill heard BPA was hiring at the substation in Longview, Washington.. The same type of work he had done in Indiana. He applied and got the job. Once again, the family packed up and moved. This time it was for good and they settled in Longview permanently.
With her kids pretty well self-sufficient, Esther took her medical background, gained in Richland, and found a job as a medical secretary for Dr. Morrison. She worked for him for a couple of years and then changed jobs and went to work for Dr. Hafner. She worked for Dr. Hafner for 17 years until her retirement.
Even though she worked full time, she still took time to enjoy her family, her friends and her church. She loved to read, go to movies, work crossword puzzles, watch the Seahawks and Husky football games, play card games, board games, and was willing to stop anything if she could talk someone into playing a game of any sort. But we found out you had better not be the last one to sit down to play or Esther would always greet you with "while your up -- will you get me" and it would inevitably be " get me a cup of coffee", or "Get me a dish of ice cream" . It was such a habit we would sometimes try to beat her to the punch by asking if we could get her anything before we sat down.
Esther also loved to go to Reno and her luck was unbelievable. One time while in Reno, she put in one silver dollar and won the jackpot, winning $4,000.00. If family new she was going to Reno, they would give her a couple of dollars to play for them. And she usually brought them back their money and a little more.
Esther said she lived in a wonderful time in our history. She survived the depression, saw electricity and plumbing installed into homes, the invention of talking movies, televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, the building of skyscrapers, airplanes and the automobile. She took up driving at the same time as her eldest grandson, who was 16 and also learning to drive. They compared notes and he thought she should learn to ride his motorcycle also. At 56, she thought that was quite a compliment that her grandson felt she was capable of handling a motorcycle. (She never did take up motorcycle riding though) With all the modern conveniences in her home, she still liked to hear the words, "Lets eat out". All of these new fangled inventions took place during her life and these are things her grandchildren and great grandchildren take for granted. We feel that is why she was always singing or humming "Tis the season to be jolly", regardless of the time of year or season.
As her family and friends, we knew Esther to always have a smile and to always be kind and patient. She loved all of us and in her papers we found a note she had written to her 3 remaining children and their spouses. We would like to share part of it with you.
"Dear children (all 6 of you)
Just want to tell you how much your dad and I have loved you, even when you were ornery. Often families drift apart when the parents are gone but I Hope you won't let this happen. Will be disappointed if you do.
Wish we had a million to leave you --
God bless you and keep you safe
Her sister Helene and Esther
Esther and Peggy
Esther with Bill Jr.
Esther and Bill Wann
Last Modified January 2001