Esther S Navarra

March 21, 1919March 15, 2012


Esther once said to her husband, “We can grow vegetables in the garden, but I need to plant flowers to feed my soul.”

Esther and Vincent (Jim) Navarra founded Jerome’s Furniture in 1954. From humble beginnings in the Upper East Village of San Diego, Jerome’s is now one of California’s largest independent home furnishing chains.

Mrs. Navarra, 92, died peacefully on March 15th at her home surrounded by family and friends. Born in Little Italy on the first day of spring, March 21, 1919, to Mariano and Antonina Sanfilippo of Porticello, Sicily, Esther was one of eight sisters. Once ridiculed for having no sons, Esther’s father was eventually applauded for having so many daughters to take care of him in his old age. Esther was pre-deceased by sisters: Ann Balestrieri, Rose Alioto, Joanna Cresci, Roslyn Mercurio, Marianna Sanfilippo and Anita Nigro.

In addition to participating in the family business well into her eighties, Esther was a wealth of information on early San Diego history and a great storyteller. She loved to share her knowledge of Old World traditions practiced by her family: cheese and wine-making, bread baking, kitchen gardening, home remedies, the pressing and curing of olives and anchovies and religious customs. She had fond memories of clamming and fishing with her father and of cooking, crocheting and doing needlework with her mother. Her handmade crocheted baby blankets were prized possessions by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and special friends. Esther was a fine chef integrating the failsafe Sicilian recipes of her family with the varied local cuisine of San Diego. She co-authored a Memoir with Recipes, “Olives on the Table,” with Bethany Atherton in 2008. Esther was also an orchid enthusiast cultivating several different species in her garden.

Esther attended Washington Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High and graduated from San Diego High School. She was an Alpha Beta Zeta and a member of the Italian Catholic Federation. Esther met Jim Navarra at a dance held by Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Little Italy where subsequently they married in 1940. Esther raised her three children in their Mission Hills home. She was named Mother of the Year by the March of Dimes.

In addition to her sister, Antoinette Zolezzi, Esther is survived by her children, Adeline Williams, Ann Navarra, Jerome Navarra and his wife Eleanor, five grandchildren, Michael Williams (w. Margie), Carolyn Veseliny (h. John), Adrienne Navarra, Jim Navarra (w. Stefanie), Mark Navarra (w. Annie) and great-grandchildren, Tyler Veseliny, Lael Navarra, and Henry Navarra.

Esther was truly loved by all who knew her and served as an inspiration and benefactor to many more.

Expressing gratitude to her caregivers, especially to her ten year companion Graciela Sanchez, Esther’s family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Esther’s name to San Diego Hospice.

A Memorial Mass and celebration of Esther’s life will be held at 10:00am, St. Vincent’s Church, 4080 Hawk Street, San Diego, California 92103, on Wednesday, March 21st, her 93rd birthday.


  • Memorial Mass Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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