Esther DeMerritt 1913 - 2005

Introduction and Background

Esther DeMerritt with Juan Carlos

When Esther Demerritt was about 75 she was photographed meeting Juan Carlos, the Spanish King in Madrid.

Esther DeMerritt is my oldest friend. When I was born, she flew from Des Moines, Iowa to Washington, D.C. to help my mother bring me home from the hospital. When I was 10 years old, I made my first airplane flight by myself (from Dallas to Chicago) to visit her.

She picked me up at Midway Airport in her Cadillac and for a week we saw all of the tourist sites in Chicago. A few of my firsts in Chicago: going to a golf range, seeing a Thunderbird, seeing a 45 rpm record, touring the German U-505 submarine, seeing a Totem pole, seeing an Egyptian mummy, visiting a planetarium, etc. She lived on Lake Shore Drive and we would watch the original Mayor Daley in his limo with 4 police escorts on motorcycles zip by. I was convinced that Chicago was the most exciting city in the world.

Esther sent me a book later that year for my birthday entitled "Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels". This book, chronicling his adventures all over the world, clearly had a major impact on my life by launching my desire to see exotic and unique places worldwide. Esther DeMerritt expanded my sense of the size of the world and its possibilities.

90th Birthday Party in 2003

Esther DeMerritt worked her entire career in college admissions. She helped thousands of students get into college. She had a pivotal impact on many of them. In 1959, Esther was the first female president of NACAC, the organization for college admissions directors. See won the prestigious Gayle C. Wilson Award in 1975. For the last 17 years of her career, she worked at Lake Forest College, an excellent college on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago.

Although she retired back in 1975, her wonderful colleagues at Lake Forest College had not forgotten her. Spike and Judy Gummere hosted a 90th birthday party for her a day before her birthday on May 5, 2003. The venue was the well appointed Glen Rowan House.

During lunch, Spike asked Esther if she remembered the side trip they took after a professional conference in Atlanta, Esther cracked everyone up when she quickly deadpanned "We went golfing". Spike enjoyed providing the further explanation that they went golfing at Augusta National! Everyone enjoyed Esther's 90th birthday party!!

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Photo of Esther DeMerritt Sally Harding watches as Esther poses for the camera in the magnificent Glen Rowan House on the college campus. Photo of Esther in Center Esther is in the center of the action as people converse before lunch while Sally Harding talks to her.
Photo of Esther at Table Esther listens to Spike Gummere, Director of Admissions, who was her boss when she retired in 1975. Photo of Esther, Lou and Sally Lou and Sally Harding lived with Esther while they were students at Lake Forest College.

Memorial Service in 2005

Esther died on October 19, 2005 in her 93rd year still mentally sharp. She had suffered from blindness for 7 or 8 years. Her friends established an annual scholarship in her memory at Lake Forest College. There is not yet an endowed scholarship. Esther was cremated and her ashes were scatted per her wishes in Iowa where her husband and parents are buried. Read her obituary.

A memorial service held in the Elliott Chapel of the Presbyterian Home on November 11, 2005 at 2pm. The service and the reception afterwards were attended by many of the same people who attended her 90th birthday.

During the service Sally and Lew Harding read aloud letters from friends who were unable to attend. All of these letters shared favorite stories and humerous observations. All noted that she was a great natural cook. Charles Fineman, who like Lou and Sally had lived with Esther during his college days at Lake Forest, recounted many colorful anecdotes. Esther touched many lives. All of her friends saw her in the same benevolent light: an independent spirit with a larger than life personality. One of those people that you will never forget.

Esther Memorial Service Esther's memorial service was held in Elliott Chapel of the Presybertarian Home. Charles Fineman Charles Fineman flew in from Cambridge, Massachusetts where he is a librarian at Harvard.
Esther's Memorabilia A collection of memorabilia and photos to celebrate Esther's life. Harding Family Lou and Sally Harding and their daughters. They planned the wonderful memorial service for Esther.