La Beth S. Kester
August 23, 1923 – October 14, 2019
La Beth Sue Calvin was born on August 23, 1923 in Cleburne, Texas to the late Joe Frank Calvin and Bethany (“Bess”) Luranie (nee Connally) Calvin. As the only girl among three brothers, Joe, Bill, and Charles, she was a tomboy, playing ball with the boys in the neighborhood and coming home with skinned knees and holes in the elbows of her sweater. She attended John H. Reagan High School and it was there she was first noticed by the boy who would become the love of her life and husband, Alfred Ray Kester. He watched her hurdle a hedge rather than walk around it and said to himself, “That’s the girl for me!”
She would not actually meet him until after he had graduated from John H. Reagan High School and they both attended a party at the house of one of his friends. They played “Spin the Bottle” and when it was Alfred’s turn to spin the milk bottle, it landed on La Beth. That was the beginning of a nearly 75-year love affair.
La Beth married Alfred on July 19, 1941 in Yuma, AZ. They lived in Englewood (a suburb of Los Angeles), CA, but La Beth was only 17 so they had to go to Arizona to get married. At the beginning of their life together in California, Alfred was employed by McDonald Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. Their first child, Theodore (Ted) Kester was born on August 13, 1942 and Richard Kester on September 7, 1943. Two boys 13 months apart kept her plenty busy. Much to her dismay, Alfred decided to enlist in the Army in 1944 to fight in the war, even though he had a deferment, because he didn’t want his boys to be ashamed of him. He was deployed to Germany, arriving just after the Battle of the Bulge ended and was part of the occupation forces after the war ended.
When Alfred returned home in 1946, they bought a house in the Oak Forest Estates subdivision of Houston. Two more children were born, Beth Ann on September 20, 1948 and Ronald Barrett on February 27, 1952. On their 12th wedding anniversary, their church friends gave them a surprise wedding ceremony and reception and they renewed their vows with the Reverend William Bull officiating.
La Beth was a wonderful cook and also enjoyed baking sweets for her family. Every year, during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Kester home was filled with the wonderful smells of cookies, which on Christmas Eve were boxed up and delivered by the Kester family to friends and family who eagerly looked forward to the pecan sticks, date pinwheels, rum balls, short bread shaped like candy canes and chocolate crackle cookies. Family favorites also included crab gumbo and crab stuffed baked flounder. No one has been able to precisely duplicate her recipe for these two dishes.
In 1959, Al and La Beth purchased 14 acres on Dobbin-Huffsmith Road in Oklahoma Community, Magnolia. The house on the property was very old, with only one bedroom. The oldest son, Ted, named the homestead “Kester’s Folly.” The first animals added were two cows. La Beth got up at 4 a.m. every day to milk them until a neighbor told her she was the only fool in the community still hand-milking cows. The Kester kids drank store-bought milk after that. A large garden was planted every year producing an abundance of produce that La Beth canned or packaged for the freezer and shared the rest with family and friends.
On a cold January morning in 1961, La Beth woke up to discover the kitchen ceiling on fire and a thick layer of smoke. Without her strong sense of smell waking her up, the entire family would have perished in the fire. The house burned to the ground and the family lost everything. Their church friends from Magnolia United Methodist Church and neighbors in the Oklahoma Community came together and helped the family with temporary housing, clothes, furniture and helped in the building of a new home.
Alfred loved saltwater fishing. La Beth loved Alfred, so she learned to love saltwater fishing, too. They spent many hours at San Luis Pass in Galveston and later bought a home in Oyster Creek Estates, Freeport, TX where they lived full time for several years before moving back to their home on Dobbin-Huffsmith.
La Beth had an interest in politics and volunteered for the Republican Party, assisting with elections and actively campaigning for candidates she believed in, including her favorite president, Ronald Reagan.
La Beth loved making her grandchildren’s birthday cakes and created different themes and shapes: Raggedy Ann, a circus elephant, Big Bird, a rocket ship, a car, among others. Alfred and La Beth readily made friends over the years and “adopted” several young families, including Pat and Leon Taake and their children, Laura, Warren, and Cheryl; Sandra and Mike Gann and their daughters, Lindsay and Emily; Lee and Ken Kolb and their children, John, Bobby, Vic, and Andrew; and Carl Rose and his late wife, Glenda and their children, Ginger and Jason. Their children all called her “Grandma” and she often made their birthday cakes, too! Her close friend Mina Hrobar’s grandchildren were also “love relatives” and called her “Grandma Kester.” Other close friends who became “love relatives” include Lynda Shroads; and Billy Sargent and his family.
After 54 years in their Magnolia home, La Beth and Alfred reluctantly moved into The Solana at Vintage Park, an assisted living apartment community close to Beth and Mike. After a couple of weeks of adjustment, La Beth soon immersed them in activities there and began making friends. Two months later, she fell backward in their apartment, resulting in a near-fatal head injury requiring three months of rehab before returning back to The Solana and Alfred. They lived in memory care until Alfred’s death on July 6, 2016, 13 days shy of their 75th wedding anniversary.
Three days after Alfred’s passing, La Beth was able to move to an assisted living apartment and immediately made new friends and began participating in activities: Bingo, Chair Yoga exercise classes, book club, and craft projects. One of her dining table mates was 101-year-old Betty Coley. La Beth and Betty became best friends and Betty’s humor and affection helped La Beth manage her grief over losing her Darling to Alzheimer’s. La Beth was heartbroken when Betty passed away shortly before her 103rd birthday. The late Bud Lear was one of the first friends Alfred and La Beth made when they moved to The Solana. His daughter, Cindy Harris, became another “love not blood” daughter to La Beth and continued to visit La Beth often after Bud passed away.
In October 2018, La Beth starred in a five-minute video called “All These Moments”, directed and filmed on an IPad by The Solana’s Resident Program Coordinator, Allie Kilpatrick. The video was entered in a national film festival contest sponsored by Brookdale and was one of nine videos selected out of 60 entries to be judged for categories like those in the Academy Awards. A reporter from the local Fox News channel came out to The Solana to interview La Beth and the segment was aired on the evening news. Shortly thereafter, La Beth, Allie, and Beth Ann flew to Nashville for the awards ceremony held in the Franklin Theater. “All These Moments” won the People’s Choice Award and Allie and La Beth came back to a red-carpet welcome from the residents and staff of The Solana. La Beth basked in her celebrity status for days after the event.
She enjoyed being one of the Ambassadors at The Solana, ensuring new residents were welcomed and had at least one new friend upon arrival. On the day she suffered the stroke that would eventually take her life, she had been enjoying herself at the Ambassador Luncheon to welcome the latest new residents, after which she spent time playing dominoes with a friend. She loved her life at The Solana and made many friends that included residents, staff, care associates and nurses.
Over their lifetime, La Beth and Alfred were active members of the St. Stephens UMC in Houston, Bellaire UMC, Magnolia UMC, and Tomball UMC. They joined Rose Hill United Methodist Church in 2001 and attended services whenever possible. She looked forward to the fellowship and seeing long-time friends.
La Beth is survived by her son, Theodore “Ted” Kester (Fran); son, Richard Kester and girlfriend, Kathy Reed; daughter, Beth Crosby (Michael); and sister-in-law, Jacqueline Willingham. Her adored grandchildren include Kent Kester (Marie); Renee McNair (Scott); Raymond Kester; Dawne Adams (James); Russell Switzer; Rachel Wyatt (William); Scott Crosby (Bonnie); Timothy Kester (Monica); Kelly Kester; Kim Hutson (Trey); and Gavin Kester. Great grandchildren include Brandon McNair (Marie) and children; Amy McNair Frenza, Kyle Kester (Andrea); Grey Kester (Kaleigh), Hannah Switzer, Dane Knudsen; Jackson Martin; Samuel Martin; Dawson Kester; Wyatt Kester; Dakota Vidaure; Annabelle Spooner; David Kester; and Ella Crosby, and several great-great grandchildren.
Nieces and nephews include Deirdre Calvin Hamling (Tom) and their children; Karen Willingham Wright (Tim) and their children; Scott Willingham (Lorie) and their children; Lee Ann Willingham Walton (Mark) and their children; and Byron Calvin.
La Beth went to be with her Lord and Savior on October 14, 2019 at 10:33 a.m. She was predeceased by her parents; her beloved husband, Alfred; brothers Joe Calvin, Bill Calvin, and Charles Calvin; and her youngest son, Ronn Kester.
A celebration of her life will be held at 11:00 a.m., October 26, 2019 at Rose Hill United Methodist Church, 21022 Rosehill Church Road, Tomball, TX 77377; PH (281) 351-5356. www.rosehillumc.org. Reverend Jason Nelson officiating. Visitation and a catered lunch will follow immediately after the service.
Memorial gifts can be given to Rose Hill United Methodist Church, Alzheimer’s Association, or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
- Celebration of Life Service Saturday, October 26, 2019