Esther J. Campbell, 87, quietly stopped breathing on Monday, July 30, 2018, as she slept peacefully in the home she loved and lived in for 63 years, in the arms of her youngest son, Richard. She was preceded in death by her husband of 50 years, Louis J. Campbell, Sr., and is survived by her sons Louis J. (Yvonne) Campbell, Jr., John R. Campbell, and Richard H. Campbell, and grandson Marcos (Lotus) Quintanilla, and numerous nephews and nieces.
She was a direct descendant of Antonio Efigenio Treviño, an original land grantee of the Laredo porciones, who arrived with Tomás Sánchez, founder of Laredo, in 1755, and of at least two Canary Island families who founded the city of San Antonio in 1731.
Her life, nonetheless, began in hardship. She was born in Laredo, Texas, on September 15, 1930, to José Jiménez and Esther Santos in the midst of The Great Depression. She frequently told wrenching childhood stories of interminably long, hot, dry days spent picking cotton, onions, and tomatoes at local farms in order to earn a few cents to help her parents make ends meet.
After her father’s unexpected shooting death in 1945, she demonstrated, at the age of 15, the sense of familial responsibility that would define the rest of her life when, despite possessing ample academic potential, she dropped-out of high school to assist her widowed mother in raising her five younger siblings. She never returned to school.
Instead she honed her work ethic at sales clerk positions at the Parisian Department Store and Hachar’s Department Store, but quickly realized, along with her boss, she said, that she did not have the caracter for sales. Her boss, however, recognized her precision in balancing the books and her exquisite penmanship and immediately promoted her to head cashier.
In fact, the two things she wanted to be sure her sons included in her remembrances were her perfect penmanship and her ability to cook. She learned the latter starting in 1955 at the kitchen of the Marulanda house, the family seat of her new husband. Two sons came in rapid succession followed by a third one ten years later.
In 1960, six-blocks from the beloved home that she shared with her new family, she started what would become a 25-year career at the Laredo National Bank, an institution that she considered her second home. She ended her tenure there in 1985 as a teller trainer. She often recounted with pride her ability to spot counterfeit $100 bills while verifying daily multi-million-dollar cash shipments from Mexico.
Retirement brought new challenges, vocational and financial, that she met with her now well-honed cooking talent. Not yet able to receive a social security pension, she began cooking tamales using the tried-and-true family recipe handed down through several Marulanda family generations. After a spontaneous and serendipitous public remark made by a church member during a church service, thanking her for her “delicious tamales,” the calls flooded in, and she sold them until she received her first social security check in 1992, to the dismay of her loyal customers.
The most important roles to Esther were those of wife and mother. She was completely devoted to her husband and sons, and although her temperament could often be contentious, the quality of her love was never held in question.
In the mid-1970s, Esther came to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and joined the First Assembly of God Church on Malinche Avenue. Several years later the church established a building fund for a new, larger facility to be built on the then-fringes of Laredo on McPherson Road. Being short of liquid resources but wanting to be obedient to God’s call, she and Louis stepped out in faith and cashed-in their life insurance policies, donating all proceeds to the church that has today outgrown its old building and moved to a larger facility.
Accepting Jesus Christ seemed to intensify the inner battle she fought against the spiritual demons of fear, insecurity, and pride. Prayer and Bible reading were daily habits, but like all Christian believers, her faith was imperfect. She suffered needlessly for years, simultaneously knowing the Truth and struggling to believe Him. But this did not stop her from contributing to her community.
In her 17-year tenure as a volunteer at the Doctor’s Hospital Women’s Auxiliary gift shop, many as treasurer, she probably helped contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide scholarships for students enrolled in the TAMIU nursing program.
Alzheimer’s Disease is not a tender enemy. When she fell this past March, her life manager, uber-responsible caretaker, daily companion, and son, John, was compelled to hire around-the-clock care for her. True to form, she fought this change tooth, nail, and word. Exhausted physically and mentally, she declared her wish to go to her final home, and 16 days later, in His time, her Lord granted her request.
Her sons would like to express their gratitude to Dr. Isaias Garza, to her loyal housekeeper and companion of 30 years Crescencia “Chencha” Frías, to her caretakers Irma Tapia and Fernanda Sánchez, to Toño Martínez and Ana Laura Rodríguez at Serenity Hospice, and to her nurses, Oti and Gregoria, for their service in keeping her comfortable during her last days.
The family will be receiving guests on Thursday, August 2, 2018, at 6:30 pm, at Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services, followed by a prayer service at 7;00 pm. Funeral service will be held on Friday, August 3, 2018. The funeral procession will depart Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services at 10:00 am for a graveside at 10:00 am at the Calvary Catholic Cemetery. Rev. Jeremy Vuolo of Grace Community Church will officiate.
Funeral arrangements are by Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services, 1320 Trey Dr. Laredo, TX 78041 (956)723-3611. You may leave condolences to the family online at www.freddickey.com