OBITUARY

Esther Klev

February 26, 1918December 27, 2020

It is with great sadness that our family shares the news of Esther’s passing at The Park Danforth in Portland on Sunday, December 27 after a very brief illness. It is with great pride that we share her story leading up to this.

Esther Klev kept her nightstand very neat.That’s because when Esther, the youngest of five, was born to Teresa & Sampson Reksten on February 26, 1918, electricity was not common in the rural seaside town of Farsund, Norway. So she learned to arrange the contents of her drawer very carefully, placing everything just so, then memorizing their exact position with her hands, ensuring everything was accessible throughout the night. Even at 102, she could navigate her bedside drawer without ever turning on the light. This was the kind of woman she was- sharp, intentional, adaptable and practical. Esther proved this time and time again throughout her life.

Esther enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Farsund, but by 18, had her sights set on Oslo. She had accepted a job offer in the city and was prepared to move. This all changed when a cute, persistent carpenter named Leif started working on a building near her Farsund home. Esther claimed Leif “saw her from the rooftop”. He asked a friend about her. Esther was going to Oslo. He asked again. No. After some cajoling from her best friend, she finally accepted a date with Leif, then another. Not long after, Esther sent a telegram to Oslo. She was not coming.

Esther and Leif married in 1938 before joining his large family in the nearby town of Mandal. Here, they welcomed two children, Ellen and Stein. As WWII drew to a close, Esther & Leif made the difficult decision to leave tumultuous Norway. Leif came to America first to find work and a place to live, then he planned to send for Esther & the kids. After a month apart, Esther had enough, and without a word to Leif, came to America to reunite her family. When Esther signed the books at Ellis Island, Ellen and Stein in tow, she spoke no English, and carried little more than the $50 concealed in her shoe. She had never seen anything like New York City in her 29 years. She hated it.

Esther had grit. She learned English by playing Scrabble, and secondhand from the kids. She toughed it out in Brooklyn for a stint, but the moment the opportunity to join sister Swanhild & brother in law Paul in Portland presented itself, her bags were packed.

Portland immediately felt like home for the Klevs. Esther loved being near the beaches, finding community at First Lutheran Church, and wished to establish new roots for her family in the Deering neighborhood. To do this, Esther knew they’d need steady work. With little English in her arsenal, she carefully copied down a want ad from the Portland Press Herald, substituting Leif’s name and number at the bottom. It worked.

Leif soon teamed up with a local contractor to establish Maine State Builders. Esther was proud of the houses Leif raised in Deering and Cumberland Foreside, but was perhaps even more proud of her work behind the scenes. In addition to raising Ellen, Stein, (and later Karen and Tyra), Esther tirelessly staged Leif’s homes for buyers. Once Leif finished a house, the family would move in, and Esther would get to work making it a home in the way only she could. This, she claimed, was the true selling point. The homes often sold faster than her family could settle into them, and Esther would soon find herself packing everything up to repeat the process again.

When she couldn’t sell a house with her tasteful decor or the smell of her Norwegian pastries in the kitchen alone, Esther got creative. The house on Walton St. wouldn’t sell. It was next to the train tracks, and no one wanted it. Esther would lean forward with a spark in her eye, hands lively with gesture as she recalled the couple who worried the house on Walton St. would shake.

“Meet me here tomorrow when the train goes by”, she told them, “and we will put a full glass of water on this table. If the water doesn’t move as the train passes, you’ll know the house is steady”. The house on Walton St. sold the following day, not a drop of water on the floor.

Esther often commented how wonderful her life had been. She was very social, had an infectious laugh and made friends easily. Esther & Leif had a huge circle of lifelong friends and would get together often to socialize and play cards. She took pride in her cooking, and especially enjoyed baking Norwegian goodies to have on hand when friends & family stopped by. After Leif passed in 1991, Esther kept up her social activities such as Tuesday group at First Lutheran Church in Portland, Women’s Literary Union and Bridge Club. She was also a regular at TPD activities such as dominos & bingo. Esther spent her quiet time knitting & crocheting items such as blankets, sweaters, hats, mittens, even teddy bears and sharing them with the family, always making sure she always made extra to donate to the Church fairs. Esther had extraordinary will. She beat cancer several times over, drove herself around Portland until the age of 96, and maintained her apartment in independent living at The Park Danforth until the age of 101. This last year has been challenging, but tried to keep herself connected to the world via facebook, video chat with family and playing Words with Friends.

Esther’s greatest joy in life was understanding the fullness and warmth of all the love she cultivated here. Esther is predeceased by her husband Leif and daughter Karen. She is survived by daughter Ellen & husband Dave Manson, son Stein & wife Chris Klev and daughter Tyra & husband Jim Tarbox. She is ‘Mor-Mor’, ‘Nana’ & ‘Dia’ to 14 grandchildren,17 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren.

The family would like to thank the staff at Park Danforth and especially the loving staff Clarks Terrace Assisted Living Facility for their kindness & compassion.

Services

14 May

Spring Burial Service

11:00 am - 11:30 am

First Lutheran Church


Portland, Maine

OTHER SERVICES:

  • Virtual Celebration to be announced

Memories

Esther Klev

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Daryl Hoffmann

February 4, 2021

Dear Tyra, Jimmy and family,
I am so sorry to learn of your Mom's passing, Tyra. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. She was a strong, determined and decisive woman and her Spirit lives within you. May your many warm, loving memories give you comfort.
Love, Daryl (N.J.)

Gardi Pedersen Hauck

December 31, 2020

Dear Ellen, Stein and Tyra,
I was so saddened to see your mother's obituary in the Press Herald today--yes, we still do read the Press Herald here in MA! When I sent her a Christmas card this year, I wondered if she would get it. She was such a wonderful, kind and loyal friend to my mother when Benny was failing so desperately, and she was a comfort to me during that time. Benny was a complicated person but your mom always looked far beyond that. I love the picture in the paper---it captures all the kindness and gentleness that I so associate with her. I enjoyed reading about her life--so much that I never knew! It is hard to lose your mother no matter what---I send you all my deepest sympathy. Esther was special! Fondly, Gardi

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Esther with her best friend Mary

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Esther Leif & Ellen

FROM THE FAMILY

Esther with her twin nieces

FROM THE FAMILY

Date with Leif in a boat he built

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

February 5, 1938

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Esther with her best friend Mary

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Esther Leif & Ellen

FROM THE FAMILY

Esther with her twin nieces

FROM THE FAMILY

Date with Leif in a boat he built

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

February 5, 1938

FROM THE FAMILY

Together at last...

FROM THE FAMILY

Esther & Ellen at Klev family home