Esther Barbick came to stay with us at Caring House, and we were honored to welcome her and her family.
Esther was born on March 2, 1920 in Lowell, Arizona. She was the youngest of 10 children, and she was raised speaking both Spanish and English. When she was 14, Esther’s family moved to California, settling near Downtown Los Angeles. They lived close to the locally-famous restaurant El Cholo, where she later worked as a waitress.
Esther married Anthony Barbick in 1939, and they celebrated the next 53 years together along with their three children, Annie, Elinor and John. Esther absolutely loved to dance, and even though her darling husband had two left feet, he would try to master her favorite dance with her – flamenco. She also loved to listen to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, and she would often be found singing ‘Spanish Eyes’ – ‘Please please don’t cry, this is just adios and not goodbye. Soon I’ll return bringing you all the love your heart can hold. Please say ‘Si, si’, say you and your Spanish eyes will wait for me…’
Early in their marriage, Anthony joined the war effort, and Esther did her part as well – she worked at McDonnell Douglas as one of the original ‘Rosie the Riveters!’ She also got through those tough years with her faith and tenacity. Having young children to take care of, she became incredibly resourceful in finding ways to make ends meet. She even saved some war bonds for a rainy day. When Anthony’s health took a turn for the worse, Esther surprised everyone by producing the huge stack of bonds she had kept for over 50 years!
Everyone who knew her knew that Esther’s true calling was her family, and her home was her deepest pride. She was present every single day – in body, spirit and heart – and she was a woman of strong faith. Every time she said goodbye to her children, she would trace the cross on their hand. Her children absorbed all of her love with the blessing, ‘May the Lord watch between me and thee while we’re absent from one another.’ They said their mother became their most treasured relationship.
She was also a whiz in the kitchen, and her kids said she made the most delicious cream puffs you’ve ever imagined. She also embraced her role in her community, running many fundraisers and campaigns for the local schools and church over the years. When Esther reached the age of 102 – a proud centenarian, plus two – she was presented with the Century Plus Milestone Certificate of Congratulations by the Mayor of Gardena. Then the Gardena Police Department and Fire Department honored her with a 12-car birthday drive-by, complete with flashing lights and sirens. A fitting tribute to a woman’s whose motto was ‘never give up!’
Esther had taken care of her own mother, so it was only fitting that when it was her turn, she was lovingly cared for by her daughters. They nursed her in her home for many years. One day, Esther asked to be dressed in something special. Many years before, her husband had bought her a mink coat that he had specially-monogrammed with her signature. As she pulled it on, Esther’s smile was as warm as the coat, and her daughter snapped the perfect photo.
The day Esther and her family were welcomed to Caring House – proudly increasing the age of our oldest resident by one year – they immediately noticed the smell of home cooking… butter and grilled cheese on the pan, to be precise. That’s when they knew and remarked that ‘there’s a lot of love in this place.’ At her daughters’ request, her light and the TV were always left on, and her bedroom door was always open. As Esther would say in her straight-forward way: ‘The doors don’t shut for me.’
On one particular visit, her daughter Annie found it comforting to find the TV tuned to one of her mom’s favorite shows, and one they would always watch together… Dancing with the Stars, of course! Her daughter also sang original Spanish songs to her when she visited – another shared bond between them – and Esther would speak her original language, lovingly referring to the caregivers as ‘las muchachas’ with a warm smile.
Esther spent one last Mother’s Day with her children. She blew a kiss to each of them as they stood by her bedside, holding her daughters’ hands the tightest she had ever held them. In turn, her children said they gave their mother’s wish back to the world with her words: ‘For you and yours, only the true, only the good, and the beautiful that life has to offer.’
Esther passed away on May 9, 2022. Honor her. Remember her.