Esther Wenz, 99, passed away Dec. 4, 2017, at St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck, North Dakota. The following obituary was written by her daughter, Rita Kelly.
Esther was born August 26, 1918, to Adam and Barbara (Weisenberger) Seidel, the first of their 12 children to be born in the new, two-story home on their 160-acre allotment of land. She attended a one-room rural school through the eighth grade and vividly recalled a day in the 1920s when they looked up and asked the teacher, “What’s that?” These young school children had never before seen an airplane.
Always a lover of learning, Esther cried when she learned during the Depression that she could not attend high school in town: it was too far away and would cost too much to get there or to board in Dodge during the week.
Esther’s parents had come to America from the Odessa area in present-day Ukraine (Germans from Russia) in 1907, as did her parents’ friends, Philippina and Jacob Wenz, who ended up homesteading just a half-mile down the road. Both the Seidels and the Wenzes converted from the Lutheran faith to join a newly formed Seventh-day Adventist church.
The Wenzes had a son named Herbert. During the Depression in the 1930s, several of the Wenzes and Seidels traveled to Washington together to pick and sort apples, and to load and drive trucks. Esther and Herb went for several years in a row during a time when there were no crops or jobs in North Dakota. Their hopes for more education shriveled and died with the crops.
November 13, 1940—a day registering 20 below zero—Esther and Herb were married in the little Adventist church located on the farmland deeded to the church by Esther’s parents. The first several years of their married life, Esther would leave Herb and their farm northeast of Dodge for the winter to work as a maid, cook and child-care provider back in Washington. She proudly stated, “With that money we were able to buy two cows.”
Eventually two children—Larry and Rita—joined them on the farm, one of whom was born in the winter of ’48-49 when the snow was so deep that Esther had to move to Hazen a month before her due date, in case she went into labor and couldn’t get to the hospital.
In 1954 Esther and Herb planned to build a new home on their farmstead, but the well water was not good. Instead, they built that same home in Bismarck, where they raised their children, staying there until Herb died at age 90, with Esther continuing to live there for over 59 years before moving to Touchmark.
Esther cleaned homes for a living for almost 50 years. At age 82 when asked why she hadn’t retired, she commented, “Well, some of the people I work for are old—they need me.”
Esther loved to do cross-stitch and to cook and bake, at which she excelled. At 94 she was still making over 25 varieties of cookies and candy to to share with friends and neighbors.
A member of the Bismarck Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1954, she served as the assistant treasurer for 25 years.
Esther is survived by her son and daughter, two grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, a sister, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Sometimes Esther would comment, “Don’t go to any fuss; I’m just a simple person.”
She now returns to the land her father homesteaded to lie by her love, Herb, and to rest between her parents and his.