Esther was born on 2nd June, 1946 in Mbeya Hospital, the second child and only daughter of Hans and Ruth Wildbolz, a Swiss family who farmed in the Southern Highlands. Her earliest memory was of falling down the gangplank of the SS Langhiby while debarking at the Suez Canal enroute to visit relatives in Switzerland - a rare trip made by her family. An elderly Egyptian man consoled her and gave her a sea shell which she kept to this day. Her early days were spent on the tea estate which her father managed; her childhood memories were of playing with Tanzanian children in the staff houses where she also learned the Kinyakyusa language. Her mother often treated estate workers for minor ailments from outside her kitchen door; this, together with her frequent play as nurse with her patients being fruits from a sausage tree, helped orient her toward nursing and midwifery which she pursued later in life. Esther loved the views from her childhood home of the Livingstone Mountains cascading into Lake Nyasa. In those days the winding dirt road from Tukuyu to Mbeya was a full day trip, not the one hour tarmac journey of today.
She was a boarder in Mbeya School from first grade and saw her parents only four times per year. The distance and profound longing for her family, while something quite natural for children in those times, did impart in her a strong sense of compassion for children separated by schooling, including her sons as they began their boarding years away from home. She loved her parents intensely and never experienced years of rebellion. Her education was through the English schooling system of Tanganyika, including middle-school years at Kongwa and high schooling at Iringa. She was a good student and sportsperson, but remembers the inevitable lashes in the Principal's office for minor offences, the tears in her bed at night when no one noticed. She used to keep a pet chameleon in the dorm.
She appreciated a wide variety of Christian diversity from the various mission influences of her parents' friends, the Anglican school disciplines, Swiss Reformed father, Pentecostal mother and grandparents, and interdenominational fellowships in Mbeya. It was while in England that she grew to have a stronger personal Christian commitment in her life. During these years she studied and worked her way through the East (now 'Royal') London Hospital, and later midwifery training in Bristol. When she finished she looked for jobs in Tanzania but they were not easy to come by. Times were uncertain for her family during the early years after independence and they encouraged her to consider emigrating as her brother, Daniel, had done, to Australia.
She decided to go to Canada, and obtained work in Nanaimo Hospital, Vancouver Island, BC where she nursed for nine years. From here she made a good income and was able to fulfill her lifelong wish to travel the world. She made trips across south Asia and throughout North America from which she would relate vivid impressions years later. Upon realizing that her parents were unlikely to follow her to Canada as had some of her friends' parents, she sought a way to return to her homeland Tanzania in the mid-1970s where she obtained work at the Baptist Hospital in Mbeya. Later she also nursed in Chimala Hospital and at the Mbalizi Evangelistic Mission. It was during this period she met Erwin, and they were married on October 31st, 1981.
Erwin's work with Heifer International required them to move immediately to Arusha. They lived in Ilboru from where Erwin managed his work and Esther managed their home and garden. Three wonderful sons were born, Ethan, Elliot and Eric, all at KCMC in Moshi. Esther became very involved in starting a parent-run pre-school, continuing the work of the International Women's Club, supporting the Arusha Branch of the International School Moshi, Sunday Schools of the Anglican Christ Church Arusha and later of the Arusha Community Church. Soon she was providing fresh garden produce, yoghurt and cheeses, to quite a number of friends, something which is still continued by the staff she trained.
Esther was an avid bird watcher, gardener, gourmet cook and home-maker. Many in the community can give testimony to her joy of life, bright spirit, animated conversation, wide interest in people and events, and readiness with advice for pregnant mothers and ill children. Her keen sense of social responsibility found a channel of action through the church Projects and Benevolence Committee. In her prayer life she practiced the presence of God, something which affected those with whom she prayed. She enjoyed her flower garden, her home and her private life with her family. She was a loving wife, mother, daughter, extended family member and neighbor. A natural care-giver, she will be sorely missed by all who were privileged to know her.
Erwin and Esther's 25 years together would have been celebrated in October this year. She desired so much to continue her life here, but God has something better for her. Her 21 month battle with cancer was courageously fought, her faith an inspiration to any who witnessed it. She did not stop looking outward to the needs of others even during this time, her hope steadfast in Christ.
She is survived by her husband & three sons, by her older brother in Australia, and by aunts, uncles and cousins in Switzerland and America.