Esther passed away this afternoon. She was 90.
From my memoir:
I was very close to Dick’s mother, Esther. She was a short woman, under five feet, with red hair that turned silver as she aged. Feisty and funny, she’d grown up in logging camps and bars and took no shit from anyone. She was very active in Democratic politics in Clearwater County and for a time served as Orofino’s mayor.
The first time I met Esther, during a trip when Dee and I drove up to visit Dick in Moscow, where he was attending the University of Idaho after getting out of the Army, we’d gone to Esther’s house in Orofino for dinner. I found the address and knocked on the door. When it opened, I looked down to find this short woman grinning up at me. “So you’re fucking Deemer,” she said. This was Esther.
Access the memoir.
And fictionalized, in my novel Kerouac's Scroll:
Hooker was staying with his mother while looking for a house in nearby Moscow, where the University of Idaho was, so he could bring up his wife and young sons, who were waiting in California where Hooker had been discharged. I was looking forward to partying with Hooker to forget my marital troubles at home, though separation from Helen was still several months away. I’d made the trip to Idaho alone. I was worried, however, that his mother might dampen our style. But I couldn’t turn down a visit when I was only a long day’s drive away, having moved to Oregon to start graduate school.
I found the address Hooker had provided on a wooded street in the hills above the river. I parked behind two cars in the driveway and went to the door.
When it opened, a woman barely five foot tall was staring up at me, grinning. She had red hair and a mischievous glint in her eye. Hooker’s mother.
The first thing out of her mouth was, “So you’re the fucking bear.”
Her name was Flo. A feisty woman who used the vernacular of a hard-drinking logger, she didn’t dampen our party style. She inspired it. She kept up with us drink for drink and kept me in stitches with stories about cooking in a logging camp as a young woman and later dealing cards in one of Orofino’s whore houses. Flo rattled off ribald one-liners all night long. Some of them I remember to this day. “She's so fat if she had a broom stick up her ass, she could sweep both sides of the street.”
Esther complaining about her nurse, spoken when Esther was in her late 80s!