April 16, 1930 – June 10, 2020
On June 10, 2020, we lost a beloved mother, a treasured grandmother, and an exceptional friend to a three-year battle with cancer. Zelda Houston Gerstner was born April 16, 1930 to James Frank and Roene Houston of Panguitch, Utah. The 11th of 12 children, Zelda had six sisters and five brothers. Although her parents passed in the late 60’s, the family held on to the childhood home as a place for family reunions, which involved aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, first and second cousins, and first cousins once- and twice-removed gathered in the great room to hear family stories involving the World War II years, teenage practical jokes, and the hardships and joys of life in a small town. As a teenager, Zelda worked on the family ranch, at her father’s mercantile, the Southern Utah Equitable, and in Bryce Canyon National Park at her Uncle Ruby’s Inn.
Zelda saved money to attend the University of Utah, after graduating from Garfield High School in 1948. Many of her life-long friendships began at university, where she was an active Tri Delta Sorority Sister. She received a BS in Consumer and Family Relations and minored in English. She also met her future husband, Eugene Frank Gerstner, at the “U”. She and her husband enjoyed skiing, reading, movies, theater, and large gatherings with friends and family. They were married June 22, 1956 and had one son, Geoffrey Eugene Gerstner. Their newlywed years were spent in Salt Lake City, where Zelda taught at South High. The couple demolished and rebuilt the Millcreek Inn in Millcreek Canyon while Gene continued his education at the University of Utah. Together, they ran the Inn, with Gene as chef and Zelda as Maître d' until they moved to Southern California.
In California, Zelda pursued an MA from the University of San Francisco in Secondary Education, with emphasis on Merchandising and Interior Design. She taught in the Anaheim Union High School District and at Santa Ana College until retiring in the 80s. She also started a consulting company and had several partnerships with California- and New York-based food and clothing businesses. While in California, they lived close to Zelda’s sister, Roene, where the families and close friends enjoyed the outdoors of California, the mountains of Utah, and a rich, full life in the Fullerton I and IV Wards of the LDS Church. In 1992, Zelda and Gene followed their son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren to Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2001, they returned to Utah, residing in Coral Canyon (near St. George) so that Zelda could be close to and take care of her ailing siblings. Their final residence, which they helped design and build, was in Springdale, Utah, just outside Zion National Park, where they lived for their final seven years. In these final years, Zelda was involved in book clubs, a Nantucket basket-making group, hiking, quilting and neighborhood exercise groups.
Zelda loved entertaining for friends and family. She formed friendships that lasted her entire life. Her son and grandchildren often remark how difficult it was to tell the difference between family and friends. Virtually all holidays, weekend parties, and vacations included both friends and family. To the very end, as she struggled through her pain and old age, she continued to entertain lavishly and regularly. She and Gene maintained life-long friendships forged from every neighborhood in which they lived. Zelda was known for her organizational skills. She made daily to-do lists and kept a meticulous daily calendar. She often said that she learned these rigorous skills from her parents, who maintained order in a house of twelve children. These skills allowed her to navigate a busy but rewarding life. Her hobbies included reading, sewing, cooking, knitting, playing the piano and interior decoration. She loved hiking and skiing with family and friends. Through most of their lives, Zelda and Gene co-owned a condominium at Brian Head with friends from college, and used the place every season of the year for vacations with family and friends. The couple was widely-traveled with friends and family in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and Russia. They also visited every state in the union, and regularly visited both Mexico and Canada.
Zelda is survived by a sister, Christine, her son, Geoffrey, daughter-in-law Janell, three grandchildren, Clayton, Terra and Sebastian, lifetime partners of Clayton (Erin Shaffer) and Terra (Scott Layton), and two great grandchildren, Malcolm and Ronan. She will be dearly missed for her love of and devotion to family and friends, her esthetic sense of dress, interior design and cooking, her charm and gracious nature around all people. Her life was a role model, and because the many lives she touched often intersected in her house, her great spirit will continue being shared among her friends, neighbors, acquaintances and family for many years to come.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
June 22, 2020
Zelda was a great neighbor. We have missed her beautiful smile and fun spirit since the day she moved away from the Delhi area. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.
Leigh and Ed Washabaugh