Life Story / Obituary
A loving and gracious wife and mother, Esther Mae Palma lived a faith-centered life. She exuded godly humility and was never heard to complain, criticize, or grumble. She chose to believe the best in people, and she expected the best from her children. Esther reflected kindness, gentleness, and a spirit of gratitude, embodying the principles of her faith and inspiring others to do so as well. Cherished by many, Esther will long be remembered and ever so missed.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1931 beheld a power of hope that undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Herman and Jane (Marken) Faber welcomed their daughter Esther to their family on September 14.
Esther's paternal grandparents migrated to the US from the Netherlands as a result of experiencing religious and economic persecution. He was a baker and started his business from scratch in Grand Rapids, specializing in Dutch rye bread and honeycake. Esther's father took over the business when his father retired, and the children helped out after school. Herman's bakery stood just steps from the family home, so her father was almost always nearby. He was also a hunter who bred and raised dogs specifically to assist him in retrieving the birds he brought down. Jane was a homemaker who dedicated herself to the care of the children. Esther's older siblings, Warren and Betty, lovingly referred to her as "Little sis."
Esther's early years centered on faith and family. She grew up at Calvary Baptist Church, where she shared her musical talents. A gifted pianist and organist, as a teenager, she began her long history of accompanying church choirs and other musicians, including George Beverly Shea.
During her early teens, Esther had the good fortune of meeting her fellow church member, Jerry Palma, a student at Christian High School. Instantly smitten, the pair quickly became a steady couple. For the next seven years, they dated and set their hearts on sharing the future in one another's good company.
Esther graduated from Lee High School. After Jerry graduated from high school and completed a year of higher education at Calvin College, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. While on leave, he and Esther exchanged their marriage vows in a beautiful wedding ceremony at Calvary Baptist Church on November 16, 1951. The newlyweds returned to Bossier City, Louisiana, where Jerry was stationed. It was here that they welcomed home their first child, Steve, and Esther devoted herself to creating a wonderful and supportive home for her family.
Four years later, once Jerry was discharged from his service with the Air Force, the family returned to Grand Rapids and welcomed three more wonderful children, Laurie, Cheryl, and Mary, into their hearts and home. In time, Jerry enrolled at Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue his calling. With Esther's unwavering faithful and skillful support and a lot of hard work, Jerry enjoyed a long and rewarding career. Together, Esther and Jerry modeled a lifetime of service for their children, often pouring every ounce of energy into the work with the church. These years strengthened them as a couple as well as a family.
Esther was a loving and firm parent. While she held high expectations for her children, she also ensured their well being. She always had a roll of Certs in her purse that she would willingly share when Sunday evening services got a little long. The family also enjoyed a reprieve from their labors with restorative family vacations camping at favorite spots near Lake Michigan, Silver Lake, or Traverse City.
A gifted musician and teacher, Esther most enjoyed Christian hymns and gospel songs. Her home was always filled with music, whether on the stereo or live as she played. Esther devoted her "free" time to serving the church in various capacities, including Sunday school teacher, ladies missionary society leader, Bible study leader, secretary, and church musician. Over the years, Esther graciously supported Jerry as he served as pastor for North Casnovia Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Stanton, University Heights Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Kentwood Baptist Church, and Grand Valley Baptist Church before retiring in 1999. She continued as a church musician in every church where her husband pastored and elsewhere. Esther was not a gourmet cook by any means, but she knew how to stretch a pastor's salary to feed a family of six. She was also a gracious hostess to visiting missionaries and other guest speakers, who often shared a meal in the family home.
Jerry and Esther traveled to Israel to visit their daughter and son-in-law, who lived there for a time. The trip also included a stop in the Netherlands, where they were able to research the Palma and Faber ancestry. For twelve years, Esther and Jerry relocated to Florida, where they escaped the harsh Michigan winters and enjoyed watching many sunsets at the beach. They became active in their local church and made many lasting friendships. While Jerry taught Sunday school, Esther relished entertaining guests in their home. In time, they longed to be closer to family and moved back to Michigan.
Always a model of how to live a life of gratitude, Esther continued to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Without a doubt, her greatest joy was sharing time with her loved ones. In her later years, she enjoyed books authored by Jan Karon and Anne Perry. Her children fondly remember coming home and seeing her peacefully seated in the living room with her open Bible on her lap.
While it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Esther's steadfast love, may we find comfort in our many treasured memories and the privilege of carrying her legacy forward. With each moment we meet with grace and gratitude, talent we freely share, prayer we lift up, and beach walk we take with our beloved, we celebrate the many ways Esther gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Esther Palma, age 89 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on December 22, 2020. She is survived by her children Steve & Kim Palma, Laurie & Mike Vanden Akker, Cheryl & Terry Giles, Mary & Rick Blackford; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jerry; her brother, Warren Faber; and her sister, Betty Osbeck.
We are grateful for the care given by the staff at Edison Christian Health Services. We grieve our loss and celebrate her joy of experiencing a new life in heaven. Please join us as we remember and celebrate Esther's life on Friday, January 22 at 1 PM at First Evangelical Covenant Church, where friends are invited to visit with her family from 12:15 PM until 12:45 PM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Edison Christian Health Foundation are appreciated. To read more about Esther, to share a memory or photo, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com