Esther Gruhs

Esther Sally (Larson) Gruhs was born at home on Dec. 19, 1904 in Keefer Street, Vancouver, to Swedish immigrant parents Anna and Victor Larson.

Her father then built a family home at 311 10th Street, New Westminster where two brothers, Edwin and Bertil were born, followed by a sister Anna.

Victor was a steam engineer on the tugboats and greatly influenced Esther’s outlook on life.

He emphasized punctuality (tides wait for no man!) and insisted that asking for assistance was a weakness.

Esther, as a result, never demanded anything for herself, and accepted whatever came along as her lot in life. It was often difficult to anticipate what might be pleasing as she made no demands on anyone for anything.

Esther graduated from the Provincial Normal School, UBC in 1924. Later that year she was offered a teaching position in Big Lake. She was in fact only the third teacher to be hired there.

She boarded at Mrs. North’s home on the Likely Road, a building that still stands today. Some of her happiest times were spent there. When not teaching, she learned to ride horseback, and enjoyed winter snowshoe and toboggan outings with her friend Mavis McDonald, nee North.

It was Christmas of 1925, when Esther, invited by Lily Widdowson (Walters), came to Horsefly for the first time, to see a community play Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick.

Ben Gruhs starred in the leading role, a fact that may have influenced Esther to eventually move to Horsefly!

In 1926 Esther moved to Willowford School in the Lone Butte area, where she stayed with the McMillens. She often said this family depended on her board to put food on the table for everyone, and the pickings were slim!

By 1927 Esther moved to teach school in Horsefly, boarding at the Cornerhouse, and remaining there until 1930. As Ben was a frequent guest for Sunday dinner at the Cornerhouse it was not long before they became engaged, then married on Sept. 4, 1930. She then retired from teaching to become a full-time ranch wife.

Esther was active in the Horsefly Social Club, forerunner of the Community Club.

She played the piano for socials and church functions. Son Ernest was born in 1934 and Esther, along with raising him, looked after the ranch during the long weeks when Ben was away working for the Department of Highways.

Feeding cattle, milking cows, chopping water holes in winter, splitting and packing wood were everyday tasks. Her annual vegetable garden, along with the flower beds were a source of pride.

After the death of husband Ben in 1976 Esther eventually took a different direction in life. Moving to Prince George in 1982, she spent the years until 2000 enjoying “city” life and being with close church friends there.

Never having had a driver’s license, she became well known to all the Prince George bus drivers; “$1.49 day, Woodwards” never had a more faithful customer!

Esther then moved back and lived in Sunset Manor, Williams Lake for a while, until independent living became too difficult. Cariboo Lodge became her home and she was able to enjoy life once more until, unfortunately, the lodge had to close. Esther spent her remaining time at the Willliams Lake Seniors Village.

She passed away Oct. 31, 2007 at the age of 102.

Esther is survived by son Ernest (Chris), granddaughter Rachel (Merrill), grandson Jason (Karol), great-grandson Chase Logan, and several nieces and a nephew.

A celebration of life tea was held at the home of Ernest and Chris and attended by many friends.

Donations can be made in Esther’s memory to: Central Cariboo Hospice Society 517 Sixth Avenue Williams Lake, V2G 2G8.


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