John Robert Esther
John R. Esther, M.D., of Joplin, MO and Garfield, AR, passed away peacefully on July 6, 2019 at his home on Beaver Lake surrounded by his family.
John was born March 28, 1932, in Kansas City, MO, to Madra Hall Esther and Windsor S. Esther. He grew up in Kansas City where he played football in the same high school where his father served as a physics teacher and later the high school principal. The family spent summers traveling, regularly camping and fishing in Minnesota. John also worked summers on the family farmstead in Laclede County Missouri near Lebanon.
On a full Naval ROTC scholarship, John majored in zoology at the University of Kansas. During his summers he attended Naval trainings ranging from serving as a midshipman on the USS Charles H. Roan (1950), receiving training at the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek (1951), U.S. Naval Air Station, in Pensacola, FL (1951) and attending the Marine Corps School in Quantico, VA (1952).
On other breaks during his four years at KU he conducted zoological field research and collected zoological specimens in the U.S. and Mexico. The specimens he collected are displayed at the KU Biodiversity and Natural History Museum.
Following graduation in 1953, John was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He served four years on active duty and then served in the USMC Reserves until he was honorably discharged as a Captain in 1962.
In 1956 John entered medical school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he served a post-sophomore fellowship in pathology.
He met Laura Jane Craigmiles (Larkie), the love of his life, on a blind date at MU. The couple married on August 31, 1957, in Hannibal, MO. After a brief honeymoon to Pere Marquette, John and Larkie each endeavored to finish their educations; medical school (1961) and nursing school (1958) respectively.
John went on to residency and specialization in pathology becoming a Fellow of the American College of Pathology. He joined Dr. Ralph Ferguson as a partner in Ferguson Laboratories, in Joplin, in 1966. The doctors served St. John's Hospital (now Mercy) and Freeman Hospital, in Joplin, as well as hospitals throughout the four-state area at a time when most smaller hospitals did not have a pathologist on staff. An avid pilot and proud member of the Order of Quiet Birdmen, John regularly flew to serve hospitals in towns ranging from Springdale, AR, Grove, OK, and Pittsburgh, KS.
John served as president of Ferguson Laboratories, chief of staff for St. John's Hospital, as well as an officer for the Jasper County Medical Society.
Dr. Esther served as president of the Joplin R-8 School Board, shepherding the system through a threatened teacher's strike.
Long-time member of the First Presbyterian Church of Joplin, he served in many capacities including Ruling Elder and member of the Board of Trustees. The Esther family, including their three children, served on a mission trip to a Native American Reservation. He and Larkie visited ministries and churches in Scotland with the Rev. William Christman.
John was a lifelong outdoorsman, avid fisherman and hunter, and loved boating with friends and family. He loved water skiing, sailing and canoeing, and spent any free weekend boating on Grand Lake, in Oklahoma. Some of his favorite adventures were spending several weeks boating and camping with his family. They boated and camped from Minneapolis down the Mississippi River one year and another year followed the St. Lawrence Seaway. They spent weeks living onboard and sailing the Abaco Keys.
John is preceded in death by his parents and by his son, Dr. John William Esther, of Springfield.
He is survived by his wife, Laura "Larkie" Craigmiles Esther; his daughter, Julie Esther Witte and husband, Douglas, of Bentonville, AR, his daughter, Cynthia Esther Campbell and husband, Russell, of Burleson, TX; by nine grandchildren, Dr. John Windsor Esther and wife, Dr. Kaitlyn Esther, of Salt Lake City, Madeline Irma Esther, of Dallas, Robert Douglas Witte, of Arlington, VA, 2nd Lieutenant William Robert Campbell, Fort Benning, GA, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Craigmiles Esther, of Saratoga Springs, NY, Sarah Jane Campbell, of New York City, Laura Grace Witte, of Fayetteville, AR, Eliza Jane Esther, of Springfield, MO, and Katelynn Jessie Campbell, of Burleson, TX; and by his cousin, Dr. William Cheek, of Houston, TX.
Graveside funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 9, at the Esther Family Memorial, at Mount Hope Cemetery, in Webb City. The family will receive friends for visitation from 5 - 7 p.m. Monday, in the chapel of Thornhill-Dillon Mortuary, in Joplin.
Arrangements are under the personal care and direction of Thornhill-Dillon Mortuary, Joplin.
Published on July 7, 2019


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Marvin Parker
Jul 22, 2019
A memorial tree was planted in memory of John Robert Esther.  Plant a tree
Janet Ott Chambers
Jul 09, 2019
My sincere sympathy to John's family. We worked together through many federal regulation changes and served together on the Boards of at least 2 Joplin community organizations. John was a sincere and humble Christian man. His love of life, his dignity and respect for others are memories I will always cherish.