Esther Deloris Shadday was born to Frank and Lizzie Arney in the front room of Grandma Arney’s ranch home on July 10, 1923, near New Underwood, South Dakota. Attending a country school a quarter mile from home, she graduated from the 8th grade at the Arney School in Pennington County. She graduated with honors from New Underwood High School, and went on to attend the National College of Business in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Next Esther worked as a secretary at Ellsworth Airforce Base in the Instrument Repair shop for the B-29. After two years, at age 20, the Lord started her on her “search journey, ” taking her to Wyoming to visit an uncle. From there she went to California to visit two aunts, and home via Colorado where another aunt became excited over a dream that Esther had at 12 years of age about Jesus coming. Esther had visited many churches on this trip, but could find no satisfactory answers to her questions.

Her journey finally ended in 1945 when she went to Washington D. C. as secretary to the Navy Department. There Esther became confident that she had at last found the church she had believed in for over 10 years, but did not know existed. She said she surrendered the same year the Japanese surrendered.

After attending tent meetings, Esther was baptized in the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist church in Washington D. C. She quit the Navy and attended Washington Missionary College (today called Washington Adventist University) where she pursued the two-year Bible Instructor’s Course.

She was encouraged to come closer home and attend Union College where she was told the church didn’t need or use women workers anymore. This broke her heart.

Esther taught church school in Duluth, Minnesota, for one year. The following year, she taught in a log cabin country school near Custer, South Dakota. She met the hired man of one brother while boarding at the home of the other brother.

The school marm and the hired man were married the following year, becoming Mr. and Mrs. Paul U. Larson. Their marriage on January 1 ushered in the terrible blizzard of 1949. Their honeymoon was spent in the country, where Paul helped friends dig out cattle from snow banks.

Children born to them were twins Kathleen Naomi and Koleen Miriam, Pauline Esther, and David Paul. Esther took care of other children so as to be home when her children came home from school. Her children never knew a baby sitter. She made it possible for her children to attend church school, a privilege that Esther, herself, never had. All four attended elementary school in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Maplewood Academy in Minnesota. The twins went to Union College for a short time.

Back to School again

Because the war interfered, Esther went back to college, and received her diploma from the National College of Business the same year that her twins graduated from Maplewood Academy. After her girls were married, she moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she worked for a number of years for the Minnesota Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. She and Jim Shadday were married in Minnesota.

Later Esther attended the Minnesota School of Medical and Dental Assistants, and received her diploma as a medical assistant. She worked in the Blake Clinic as a lab technician, X-ray tech, and secretary until Dr. Blake sold his practice at the age of 89. He was Catholic, and very concerned for her welfare. Esther told him, “Don’t worry about me, Dr. Blake. I’ll move close to some of my children, and retire on Social Security.”

But Esther never retired. She moved to Lincoln in 1988, and started working nights at Bryan Memorial Hospital as a phlebotomist for four years. Becoming tired of middle-of-the-night-ventures in snow and ice, she quit to travel with the Advent Tours.

Her first tour took her into the Southland, and later to her favorite alma mater in Washington D. C. Then she was privileged to travel across eastern Canada and across Nova Scotia. The next year, she went visited the western USA and Canadian National Parks. Her last tour was into Canada, Yukon and Alaska. All this was done by bus—until the bus couldn’t swim and had to take a ferry.

Esther also did a lot of driving alone in her own car, traveling thousands of miles visiting relatives and friends over the years. A couple years before moving to Lincoln, she and her daughter, Koleen with son, Jason, went to Hawaii.


A dream came true in Esther’s life when she graduated with honors and received her associate degree in religion in 1996—for which she had waited 50 years—from Union College.

But Esther didn’t stop here. The following year found her at Union College taking a year of New Testament Greek. She then decided to take classes for credit, and pursued her Bachelor of Arts in religion, which she completed in 2000.

Esther found that dreams can come true even late in life. Although tempted to feel she had accomplished little in her life, while looking back over her life she saw how the Lord guided, blessed, and helped her accomplish far more than she thought would ever happen.

The popular belief that older people could not learn irritated Esther. She believed that anyone can learn if they have the desire to do so. It depended upon priorities. It may have taken a little longer, but she was proud of her high school habit of earning A’s, which carried over 50 years later to college.

Dreams can come true was Esther’s optimistic opinion. Being with older people who had no goals and too much negativism depressed Esther. She enjoyed the optimistic and positive people she found on the Union College campus. She pushed herself to reach her goals. She lived close to college and walked most of the time. She always missed her home and friends in Minneapolis, but she felt the Lord had led her from the big-big city to Lincoln, to fulfill her dream of so many years. Although she said she tried to move from Lincoln three times, the Lord never let her move—until she fulfilled her dream of becoming a Bible instructor.

Esther enjoyed writing, and wrote many stories of her early childhood, which included much of the lives of her pioneer parents. She completed genealogies of both grandparents dating back to the early 16th century. Her stories and genealogies were given to her children for Christmas in 1997 as a memento of her life.

“People don’t just sit and talk anymore,” Esther said. “My kids don’t know much about me.” But it’s all in writing now and the heritage can continue–learning from mistakes made! Esther wished she had asked her parents more questions, but fortunately she did gather much information from an uncle, her dad’s youngest brother, as well as his aunt, the youngest sister of Esther’s grandmother. She sent letters to cousins for their family updates. She said it was interesting, fun, a challenge, and even depressing at times to learn what happened to her ancestors.

When it was time for Esther to move on, God took care of the last move, and she didn’t even have to do the packing. On February 15, 2018, Esther passed to her rest in Denver, Colorado and now awaits the fulfillment of her dream of seeing the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Following are two of Esther’s stories:

Precious to Him

Written for Women’s 1999 Devotional Book

January 1997

Isaiah 43:4: “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.” KJV

I was a mother of four babies. The oldest were twin girls, and only three years old. I had a girl and boy younger.

One week everything was going wrong. I bathed my four babies and tucked them in bed and retired myself.

I lived in the ‘lonely’ country with no modern facilities—wood stoves, no electricity, no telephone, no radio, no car, and I seldom saw anyone. We hauled our water for all household use.

In the dark of night, a text was given to me—no words just the text Isaiah 43:4. It was dark and cold, so I did not want to get out of bed and look up the text. I finally fell into a peaceful sleep.

I was dressing the children for church the next morning, and had forgotten about the text. I was sitting in church, holding my month-old baby boy, with tears of discouragement filling my eyes, when the text was given to me again. I opened my Bible and read, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee … ”

My tears of discouragement turned to tears of joy. Maybe no one else loved me, but God just told me that He did. Reading on, He said, “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west: … ” God not only loved me, but He gave me a promise for the baby in my arms and the other three beside me. He promised me that He would save my children and also their ‘seed’—my grandchildren. (I have ten at the time of this writing.)

What a precious promise from the Lord on a dark, cold night of my life, both in the physical and my spiritual world. He watches over His own even when our eyes are so blinded by tears we cannot see Him — not even with our heart. But He loved us so much that He gave His only Son that we and our children may be saved.

Thank you, Lord, for hearing a heart cry when spoken words could not be uttered.

Thou Art My Guide

Written for 1999 Women’s Devotional Book

January 1996

Jeremiah 3:4 — “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, ‘My Father, thou art the guide of my youth?'” KJV

The Lord was drawing me to Himself, as a child, when I was swinging in the raindrops, snowflakes, moonlight and dreaming into the beautiful prairie sunsets. The Lord heard and understood my heart’s yearning. I was praying in my childish way, and did not realize it, but He knew.

When I was 11 or 12, I dreamed I saw Jesus coming. He did not touch the earth but reached out to me as I was walking to my country school—and I woke up.

Friends and peers encouraged me in my Christian beliefs. An older friend invited me to Vacation Bible School. I rode my horse five miles daily to attend. I learned my first memory verses from this older friend: John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son … ” and Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow …. ” KJV

The Lord started me on my “search journey” when I was 20 years old. This took me into many churches coast to coast. I could find no satisfactory answers to my questions until I arrived at Washington D. C. in 1945, where I had accepted a position as a secretary to the Navy Department. This is where my search ended when I found those who were interested in the dream I had as a young girl, and they believed as I felt the Bible taught. I was at peace at last and happy to meet my new friends.

Immediately, I entered college. My dream had always been to be a missionary to Japan. That dream was shattered the next year when I went to a different college and was told they did not use women workers. My heart was broken—my spirit crushed.

I taught church school a couple of years, and then married a Christian man and believed I would have lasting happiness. We had four children. When our children were eight, nine and ten years old, their daddy left us. Our world had turned upside down.

The Lord was with me through my blinding tears. He brought me back to college to help heal some of the hurts of the past. In 1996, I graduated with my degree in religion—a 50-year-old dream finally fulfilled.

Through a lifetime of tears, heartaches, and broken dreams, I know the Lord has been with me just as He was in the swing and on horseback. Although I slipped and faltered, He held my hand and has carried me over many rough spots. He was the Guide of my youth (Jer. 3:4) and He is still guiding me now with my gray hair.

Information submitted by Helen Joy Dougherty, granddaughter of Esther Shadday.