Esther (Oren) Leitner
Esther (Oren) Leitner was born 7 miles SW Erick, Oklahoma (2 miles west & 5 miles south) on May 23, 1918. She was the 5th of 7 children born to John A. (Papa) and Maude Lucas Oren. She died April 15, 2019 in Caldwell, TX.
Esther was raised on their farm performing the tasks of farm life – hoeing cotton, picking cotton, canning, gardening and raising and harvesting chickens. She was a devoted gardener all her life.
As a child, Esther almost died when the whole family contracted typhoid fever. She was so close to death that Papa made her a coffin. A neighbor said, “She’s probably not going to make it, and if she does, she’s not going to be quite right.” But, she did “make it” and was in her right mind almost to the end. Later in life she survived two bouts of cancer, one at the age of 90.
Her family donated land for a school near their home. She attended that school (Dabney) through the eighth grade. In math class she would write everything down and go home to have Papa help her with it. She admitted that she really didn’t try in class because she liked the attention that she got from Papa. After she finished the eighth grade there was no way to go the 7 miles to Erick to get to high school. Mamma didn’t want her just hanging around doing nothing, so she went through the eighth grade again.
Esther was sent to college at West Texas State College in Canyon, Texas since an aunt and uncle had a house there where she could stay with her cousins. She said college was the best experience of her life. It was at college that Esther met John Wesley Leitner.
Esther liked to tell the story of how an exception was made to the California law so she and John Wesley could get married. Wesley was stationed in California in 1942 during WWII. Future deployment overseas was likely. So, Wesley sent money to Esther to take a train to California. She would stay with Wesley’s aunt in San Francisco. When she got there, Wesley and Esther went to the courthouse to get a marriage license. The clerk told them that California had a 3-day waiting period for getting a marriage license. Wesley argued with her saying that he could be shipped out at any minute. The clerk said, “This is California law. You will have to speak to a judge.” So, they went upstairs to talk to the judge. The judge continued to state that the California marriage law required 3 days. Wesley said, “ But I might not be here in 3 days.” The judge then turned to Esther and asked her how old she was. She was 24. He then asked what she was going to do when Wesley was shipped overseas. Esther said, “I have a job teaching in Kelton, Texas.” So, the judge turned to the clerk and said, “I don’t see any reason why these young people can’t get married.” The clerk then issued the license, but she was not happy about it.
Esther did teach at Kelton for that next year. She then joined Wesley at an Army base in Mississippi where he was involved with training the Japanese-American forces. When he was shipped overseas, she returned to Erick where her first child (Janice) was born 6-months before Wesley returned home in 1945.
Esther returned to her teaching career in 1953 at a 5-teacher rural school in Southwestern Oklahoma where she taught 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students in one room. After 2 years there, the school was closed, and the family moved to Texas where she taught 3rd grad in McLean.
In 1959 the family moved to Burkburnett when Wesley went to work at Sheppard Air Force Base. She was a long-term member of the Burkburnett Church of Christ. Esther was widowed at the young age of 55 when Wesley died suddenly of a heart attack.
She continued teaching at Burkburnett until she retired in 1981. After that point, her day was planned around “The Wheel of Fortune”, monthly lunches with her “exercise group” and excursions to McDonald’s for coffee. In addition, there were many foreign trips with her teacher friends.
In late 2017 she moved to Copperas Hollow Assisted Living facility in Caldwell to be closer to her daughter, Suzan, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband, John Wesley in 1973; 3 sisters, Gladys, Edyth and Janette; 3 brothers, Virgil, Herbert and Leo ; her son-in-law Harold (Skip) Dimon and grandson Nathan Dimon.
She is survived by two daughters: Janice Masters and long-term partner Terry Callaway and Suzan Dimon; one granddaughter, Veronica Dimon; two grandsons, John Wesley Dimon and Adam Dimon and wife Claire Davenport Dimon; four great grandchildren: Thomas Dimon, Paige Dimon, Ellie Dimon and Liam Dimon; along with numerous nieces and nephews.