Our mother was born to John and Elsie Alexander in East Gate, Texas on August 29, 1926, the fifth of seven children. Her father took a job with the railroad in San Benito, Texas where she grew up very poor, a victim of the Great Depression. At one point she felt fortunate to go home to a boxcar.
Her experience taught her what it was like to have nothing except family and friends. She developed compassion for the underdogs in life. She determined to seek out those who seemed to have no other friends. She taught us to do the same, although she was much better at it than any of us.
Mom was not that athletic, but she was proud to have become a cheerleader for those who were. This never stopped. She could not tell you anything about sports, but when the University of Texas was on TV, you had better have your earplugs in. It is not clear whether or not the referees could hear her, too, but she certainly let them have an earful anyway.
After high school she moved to Austin. On a blind Coke date she was introduced to a handsome Navy man, Bill Esler, an engineering student at UT. They instantly fell in love, and less than four months later, they were married. Their wedding occurred on Thursday, February 13, 1947, in the Austin Seminary Chapel. They honeymooned in Ft. Worth on Friday, rode horses in Austin on Saturday, and went back to work on Monday.
When Bill graduated and took a job with a young Southwestern Public Service Co., Mom moved with him to Plainview where she gave birth to two sons, Vance and Clint. When Bill was transferred to Borger, she had one more son, Scott, then decided that was enough. When Bill was transferred again, Mom packed the family and moved to Amarillo where she would spend the rest of her life.
Growing up with Mom in the 60’s was an experience. Having endured World War II and married a Naval officer, she could not sympathize with anyone who wanted to burn a US flag or dodge the draft. She had known what it was really like to be poor, so she could never understand why anyone would choose to wear clothes that were torn and had holes in them, or why anyone would not shave or cut his hair. Consequently, the start of every school year for us meant new clothes, creases in our jeans, starched shirts, polished shoes, and hair combed.
Mom made sure we did our homework. She always wanted to know why we had “only” made a 95 on a test. She wanted to know who our friends were, where we were going to be at what time, and when we were coming home. In other words, she was downright nosy. But she was raising boys.
Mom was a human lie detector. When we were suspected of crossing some line, Dad would ask us a question, then he would make us give the answer to Mom who would tell him whether or not we were lying. We didn’t test her skills very much more than once.
Mom knew how to have fun, too. She loved to entertain. She made us help to clean the house for bridge club, then rewarded us by letting us lick the bowls of cake batter and icing. She loved holidays. Each one would find her house decorated and full of whatever food was appropriate for the occasion. She became famous for making Santa Claus cookies, a skill that has been passed to her grandchildren.
Mom loved glamour. She loved old movies. She loved to dress up and to fix her hair – every day. She loved to shop. She would buy clothes that she knew she would never wear, fully intending to pass them to one of her daughters-in-law. She was generous in other ways, too. No solicitation for charity went unanswered. No child’s need was left unmet. Every grandchild’s birthday or Christmas became a special event. She also helped friends and acquaintances by hiring them to do things that she was fully capable of doing herself.
Mom’s greatest challenge started when Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Through the years that it took for him to deteriorate and pass, she did her best to take care of him, even when she was crippled with arthritis and having her own problems with strokes. When she died at the age of 84 on June 14, 2011, she peacefully joined him again in that place where there is no pain and where there are no tears.
Geraldine “Jerre” Esler leaves behind her three sons and their wives: William Vance and wife Janie, of Amarillo; Clinton Lee and wife Susan, of Amarillo; and Jerry Scott and wife Tonya, of Austin. She is also survived by 8 grandchildren and their spouses and children: David and wife Ashley and son Archer, John and wife Lacey and daughter Dani, Will and wife Anna; Kaki Clifton and husband Canyon and daughter Claire, and Eddie; Ty, Jacey Vollrath and husband Ben with daughter Blakely, and Trafton. Finally, she is survived by her brothers and sisters Maxine Dodson of San Benito, Herman Alexander of Kingman, AZ, Peggy Graham of Pinehurst, Pat Alexander of El Campo, and Betsy Holbert of San Benito.
Funeral services will be Thursday, June 16, at 10:00 am at the graveside at Llano Cemetery by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Home. The family will be available for visitation at 2802 S. Hughes from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.