Calvin mourns the loss of Esther Waid
February 26, 2009
Campus store employees gathered in the darkened store this morning to share memories of their colleague of 26 years, Esther Waid, a woman they remember as strong, intrepid and fun-loving. Waid, 51, died at 4 a.m. Thursday morning at Butterworth Hospital from what is presumed to be a viral infection.
"She was a sweetheart,” said campus store director Tom Van Wingerden. “She was truly one of our go-to people.”
Waid took sick with flu-like symptoms a-week-and-a-half ago, and entered the Blodgett Hospital on Monday when her condition worsened. On Wednesday, she was transferred to Butterworth for a procedure to relieve the buildup of fluid around her heart and lungs. Though she initially showed signs of improvement yesterday, last night her fever spiked, and her condition quickly deteriorated.
"I quickly checked the (online) Care Page this morning, and she was gone,” said Gretchen Boerma, supply coordinator at the store. “I can’t believe a virus could take her because she was so strong.”
Waid is a 1980 graduate of Calvin with a degree in biology, who started working at the campus store as a student. “She was really smart. Knowing her, there’s probably not too many jobs she couldn’t figure out,” said Keith Johnson, the store’s textbook coordinator and a colleague since 1979. Waid started working fulltime at the store in 1983, eventually working her way up to the supervisor of technology and textbooks.
"We three were really close because we were alone together so long, and we’re like a management team,” Boerma said.
Both Johnson and Boerma remember Waid as a skillful and hard-working person. “If anyone would want to know how to work the computer system or the software system, she would know,” Johnson said. “And if she didn’t know, she would figure it out.”
"She loved a challenge,” said Boerma. “She loved when Tom would come to her and say, ‘I need this kind of a report because it was a challenge.”
Her colleagues also remember Waid as a devoted mother and wife—“just extraordinarily family-minded,” Johnson said. She and her husband of 30 years, Andrew, had four daughters, all of whom attended Calvin: Elizabeth who graduated in 2003, Louise, who graduated in 2004, sophomore Eleanor and senior Jennifer. Their grandson, Dexter, is almost a year old.
Speaking by actions
The family are longtime members of Blythefield Christian Reformed Church , where Waid served as a deacon. “I would say she expressed her faith in actions rather than words,” Boerma said.
Among the family’s traditions, said Johnson, was “practice Thanksgiving,” a party they threw for friends a week before the actual holiday. “Every year, practice Thanksgiving got bigger,” Boerma said.
She and Johnson also recalled Waid as a talented seamstress, who whipped up costumes and banners for church. (Waid also made a banner for the Vincent and Helen Bunker Interpretive Center.) “She had a huge talent for tatting—a lost art now,” said Boerma. “She made the edging on the wedding veils for her daughters.”
Her friends also reminisced about Waid’s quirkiness. She owned a collection of 100 sewing machines. She enjoyed rustic camping in the Upper Peninsula. She kept a package of tiny Japanese dried fish in a drawer. “She would pass them around and try to get us to eat them,” Johnson said. “Esther was game for anything.”
Occasions for grief
Today was the second occasion in the last three years that campus store staff have gathered to mourn an employee. Former merchandise and book event coordinator Pat Worst died in November of 2006.
"We were a close staff already, and when Pat died, we got closer,” said Van Wingerden, “and we’ll probably be even closer now.” The store closed at 3:30 p.m. today to allow staff and student workers to gather together and grieve.
Visitation for Esther Waid will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, February 28 and from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 at Pederson Funeral Home in Rockford. The service of praise and thanksgiving for Esther's life will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2 at Blythefield Christian Reformed Church.
~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing