Esther Isabelle Goff Nelson Kynaston
Born 8/27/1926 -- Died 1/12/2020
Esther Isabelle Goff, 4th child born to Wilburn and Isabelle Goff, was born in Bybee, Jefferson County, Idaho on a warm August day in 1926. Mom loved her birth story and recorded multiple accounts in various places – Grandma fed the threshers and then went into labor. Due to complications in the birth, the doctor birthed Mom and set her on the sewing machine in front of an open window while he attended to Grandma Goff’s needs. Neighbor Rosette Forsthye had been summonsed when Grandma went into labor and arrived to find Esther quiet, cold, shivering and blue so she wrapped her in flannel and warmed her in the kitchen by rubbing her with warm olive oil in front of the wood burning stove until she cried. Mom remembered that traumatic beginning and was always grateful to the doctor for saving her Mother and “Aunt” Rosette for saving her.
Mom loved living on the farm with her family and a special highlight of each day was her Dad’s return home. She lovingly recalled Grandpa striding across the fields laughing and scooping her up to toss her high into the air. Grandma, ever the worrier, was always fearful that he would drop her – not Grandpa. My Grandpa Goff was a big, loud man whose gruff demeanor belied a gentle heart and love of children manifested in teasing and roughhousing that inevitably ended with a peace offering of candy. Grandpa’s didn’t have a tooth in his mouth, but he had a sweet tooth that caught him in the diabetes that plagued his later years. Their home was filled with music even though they owned no musical instruments. Grandma and Grandpa both had beautiful singing voices and Mom delighted in singing hymns and popular music with her parents.
The Goff family had a reputation for higher than average crop yields, which helped sustain the family through the sparse years of the depression. Mom’s recollection is that while the family never had much cash, they always had food on the table and visitors to their home never left without being served a meal. Mom said that her family home was the first McDonalds. Everyone in the family looked forward to cousins visiting during the summer. Beds were in short supply so the adults slept in the beds and the children piled under blankets on the floor. That resulted in considerable giggling and lots of adults telling everyone to go to sleep and let everyone rest.
Mom’s first memory of participating in primary was when the Bybee Ward was divided and their membership records were moved into the Rigby 1st Ward. In summer she either walked or rode a horse to school and primary activities. If it was dark before she got home and she saw a car approaching, she would hide in the barrow pit. I’m not sure who the scary people in Bybee were, but Mom felt like she needed to keep herself safe.
Mom participated in Larks, Bluebirds and Seagulls and was proud of receiving her Seagull pin at graduation, recognizing 100% attendance.
The Goff family moved from Bybee to a 3-room log house in Lorenzo (5 miles northeast) during the summer of 1938. While the farm was smaller, the property had been a rental and there were more weeds to hoe as the tenant was not such careful land stewards as Grandma and
Grandpa Goff. Grandma delighted in the modern convenience of stucco walls plastered and painted white with an attic and a shingle roof. The pump was just outside the kitchen door and there were electric lights! Grandpa built a chicken coop and a barn to shelter the animals and the family was back in the chicken/egg and milk business to supplement the food produced in the family garden.
The move to Lorenzo brought the family into closer proximity to church meetings and Mom received her first church calling as the chorister. Mr. Brady, the choir teacher at school, taught her the beat patterns and reviewed note values with her and she started to study how music is noted and recorded. She stood in front of Grandma’s dresser mirror to practice the patterns of leading music and Mr. Brady often put her in charge of the school choir when he left the room. Mom’s love of music was a lifelong passion – Kimberly and I found multiple batons while cleaning out Mom’s home. Even without formal music training, throughout her life Mom loved serving as choir director and carefully curated each week’s program.
At harvest time in 1943, Mom was preparing for high school graduation. She worked extra hard picking potatoes to earn extra money to buy her first store bought dress from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. She graduated one of 100 students in her lovely net dress, nylon hose and blue patent leather sandals – with one-inch heels! Most of the boys went off to the service and a few girls who did not get married went off to California inspired by “Rosie the Riveter”.
It was so fun to read Mom’s letter to her brother Ray who was serving in the Pacific Theater in World War II. Hearing her bubbly teenage voice sharing what assemblies were happening and sharing her high school experiences. I so rarely saw my Mom as a carefree teenage girl as she was always taking care of us or someone else.
Mom had a boyfriend – Joseph Ricks. Because Joe did not delight in using guns to kill things, he was dispatched to the Army Medical Corps. Joe was shot in the back rescuing a wounded soldier during the Battle of the Bulge (where our Uncle Grange served as a paratrooper). As a child, I always treated Mom’s mementos of Joe with tenderness and respect and I still have the silk pillowcase that was tucked in with the letters from his medical corps buddies telling Mom of his bravery.
When Mom learned that Union Pacific Railroad needed telegraph operators and they would pay for her to take a train to Pocatello to study telegraphy, she boarded the train at Rigby and stayed with Aunt Nola while she learned how to send and receive Morse code and how to be a good railroad employee. I’d like to see that employee handbook! She transferred to American Falls where her supervisor was LDS and she could attend church meetings and activities after school.
On her 18th birthday, Mom was transferred to work the graveyard shift at Wapi, Idaho where, exhausted from travel and study, she was found sleep-walking the rails in her flannel nightgown. Another operator shook her awake just as two trains were approaching. Mom recalls two other instances of being found sleepwalking; says she doesn’t remember the rest. My son, Jonathan, was a sleepwalker. It is odd what traits we pass along to the next generations.
Mom bid on every open position that came up and was assigned to work the graveyard shift at Opal, Wyoming – a move that shaped her life as that was when she met my Dad, Donald Ralph Nelson, a sheep rancher from Kemmerer. They married on December 12, 1945 (too young, the both of them) and moved out to the Nelson family homestead on Hams Fork. Transportation to town was horseback in the summer or horsedrawn sleighs in the winter. While Mom loved ranch life, it was not my Dad’s cup of tea, so my Grandpa Nelson moved the entire family (our family, Uncle Charles, Uncle Doyle and Uncle Keith) to Powell Butte, Oregon to set up a dry farming operation. Then we children came along – Ken on May 28, 1948, Kim on November 3, 1949, me on July 16, 1951 and Jon (always Mom’s favorite) on April 1, 1953 (our own April Fool!) Mom always wished for more children and there is no question that motherhood was the purest and highest calling in her life. Whatever else was missing in our lives, we children knew (and know) we are dearly loved. Mom’s legacy -- 4 children, 16 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren continues to grow. Each of you – know you are loved.
Uncle Arnold offered Dad the Fontenelle Ranch outside of Kemmerer, Wyoming and we picked up stakes and moved again. While Mom loved ranch life, again, Dad did not like the isolation and hard work – he would have much rather been flying airplanes – so we moved to Washougal, Washington where Dad entered the glamorous world of radio. Their marriage fell apart and Mom – on her own with 4 young children -- sorted out the next chapter of her life.
Mom worked in a Camus, Washington nursing home – where I believe she developed her life-long fear of nursing homes that greatly influenced her end of life choices and decisions – she worked in a woolen mill and for the Stoller family as a housekeeper. Grandmother Stoller paid my brother Ken $.25 to read to her and Mom loved seeing her eldest son have the opportunity to earn a little cash. That also provided a good source of childcare – for Ken. The rest of us ran wild.
Mom’s next step was to move us all to Lorenzo, Idaho – yes, to that 3-room house with the white stucco walls and electricity -- to live with Grandma and Grandpa Goff. Grandpa had added a parlor and an indoor bathroom with an adjoining washroom for the wringer washer. Mom worked at Montgomery Ward to earn money to attend Ricks College and pursue her education plans that were interrupted when she married Dad. After I really don’t know how long at Grandma and Grandpa’s – and there are a million stories I could tell you about that chapter in our lives – we moved up to the old military barracks at the top of the Ricks Campus that served as student family housing. It was spare, but the boys had one bedroom and Mom and I shared the other bedroom. When I wasn’t in school, I loved attending Mom’s classes with her and the boys and I loved exploring the desert fields behind the “lambing sheds” as they were called. We knew every nook and cranny of Ricks College. Late at night, we took turns walking down to the school library to wake Mom up and to bring her home to bed. I received a cookbook for my 8th birthday and learned how to make simple meals – everyone in the family pitched in to help Mom get her education so we could all have a better life.
With a two-year degree under her belt, Mom moved us to Burley, Idaho where she taught 4th grade at Dworshak Elementary on a provisional certificate until she entered BYU in June 1963. Mom completed her last two years of college in a year and a half and chose between job offers in Pt. Barrow, Alaska and Magna, Utah. Guess where we landed in August 1964?
In 1964 Magna was firmly in the grip of the Kennecott Copper Mining Company as the union battled to keep mining and employment practices as they had been. The EPA had not yet been funded sufficiently to force the cleanup of the tailings ponds and destructive mining practices and we had moved into a whole new world. We had no car, so Mom walked the 3 plus miles to her new teaching position at Lakeridge Elementary and the boys and I enrolled in Webster Elementary, Brockbank Jr. High and Cyprus High.
Even though we children begged Mom to marry her long time friend, Herman Yauzzi (who always gave us quarters to go away so they could “talk”), she held out until we were all out of the house and then fell in love with Jay Kynaston. They married on March 30, 1972. While Jay was a bit of a financial disaster for Mom, there is no question that he loved her unconditionally and he offered her the level of adoration that Grandpa Goff always given his little girl. She so deserved that kind of attention and affection.
Mom and Jay traveled the US extensively as he pursued government maintenance contracts. Wherever they lived, Mom taught school. When each maintenance contract ended, she packed up and they moved to the next contract. I can’t count the number of times they crisscrossed the US. It was during those years that Mom’s odd lifelong relationship with time manifested as she would frequently call me from somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard while I lived in California. At 2 a.m. my phone would ring and she would cheerily ask if I was already up and about. I would groggily remind her that she is 3 hours ahead of me and she was always a bit puzzled how that could happen. I learned to roll with it and just enjoy another telephone conversation with Mom.
Mom and Jay eventually moved back to Logan where Jay set up his locksmith business and Mom commuted to her home in Magna to teach. They loved touring around on Jay’s Honda Goldwing in their full leather outfits. And, they usually had their little chiuhuahua in the basket on the front of the bike. So, my Mom was a biker chick! Jay passed away suddenly in 1987 and Mom went to Montana where Aunt Joan and Uncle Bob were caring for Grandma Goff. Caring for her mother until she died helped heal Mom’s heart and she moved back to Magna to continue her teaching career.
Mom was a vibrant and curious school teacher with a tender love of the 3rd grade children she taught for 14 years at Lakeridge Elementary and various schools in the Salt Lake Valley as a substitute teacher until her 91st birthday when she retired to serve as library aide for one additional year. Mom also taught school in Idaho, Rhode Island, Illinois and Virginia and who knows where else. She just loved working with the children and most especially those with special needs. Mom served faithfully in many callings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints primarily working with children and music. Her final calling was Sister Friendly and she truly took Sister Friendly to a new level.
Mom’s favorite decorating accessory was contact paper – evidence is everywhere in her home. Born a child of the Depression, she could and did repurpose anything. Sweet Diane, Mom’s caregiver for the last 8 weeks of her life, confessed to me that she was sneaking the yogurt containers out of the house in her purse and disposing of them at her next job. I cheered her on! Guess what – there are still plenty of yogurt containers at Mom’s house. Drop by and pick some up if you want!
The good people that Mom attracted blessed her throughout her life and in her final days. I can’t say thank you enough to Tia, Lindsi and most especially Diane who cared so lovingly for my Mom. Our family has surrounded Mom with love and tenderness so, in accordance with her wishes, she could die in her beloved home – thank you Kim, Cowboy, Christiana, Joel, Jordan, Kimberly, Kenton, Cyndee, Ginger, Justin, Cassie, Veralynn … everyone who took the time to just sit with her and love her and give her that soft landing as she traveled to the next life. You blessed her life and in turn, she blessed yours.
Last Sunday evening Mom passed from this world into the next and I can just see Grandpa Goff striding over with a smile on his face to scoop her up into her arms and shower her with his love. Grandma Goff and her siblings – Fern, Grange, Ray, Lorraine, Roland and Joan must be overjoyed to have their family unit complete again as Mom is the last of her family to pass away. How typical of Mom to take care of everyone else before giving a thought to herself.
Throughout her life, Mom lived with a Guardian Angel on her shoulder. There are so many times that things could have turned out differently, but they didn’t because her angel was there. That guardian angel served her well and Mom has now released her angel on this earth. I pray that her angel will shelter each of us with the same love and tender care with which she protected my Mom.
Prepared by Donna J. Verna, her daughter