Obituary for Ester Hustvedt
Ester Vegan Hustvedt died at 8:00 PM on October 12 of congestive heart failure in her room at Southview Suites in The Northfield Retirement Center. She was ninety-six years old. Ester Vegan was born in Mandal, the most southern coastal town in Norway in 1923, where she spent her childhood with her parents and three older siblings in circumstances she would later describe in idyllic terms. She loved rocks and sea and wind and flowers, passions she retained all her life. Ester was seventeen when the Nazis invaded Norway. After demonstrating against the Germans with other students in the early […]
Ester Vegan Hustvedt died at 8:00 PM on October 12 of congestive heart failure in her room at Southview Suites in The Northfield Retirement Center. She was ninety-six years old.
Ester Vegan was born in Mandal, the most southern coastal town in Norway in 1923, where she spent her childhood with her parents and three older siblings in circumstances she would later describe in idyllic terms. She loved rocks and sea and wind and flowers, passions she retained all her life. Ester was seventeen when the Nazis invaded Norway. After demonstrating against the Germans with other students in the early months of the occupation, Ester was arrested and defiantly chose to go to jail rather than pay a fine to the Nazi occupiers. She spent nine days alone in a cell with a single barred window and was fed green potatoes and water for the duration. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn kept her company. By then, absorbed, attentive, in depth reading was an established habit, one she maintained until late in her life.
After the long war years, Ester, like many young Norwegian women, left the country to find work elsewhere. She spent a year as a governess for an English family at Henley on Thames, an experience she later spoke of fondly. She studied English at the University of Oslo, and it was there in 1951, she met Lloyd Hustvedt, her future husband, a Norwegian-American veteran who was a Fulbright scholar at the International Summer School. She attended Luther College and fulfilled requirements for her B.A. in a single year. In 1954, she moved to Northfield, Minnesota, and married Lloyd in Urland Church near the farm where he grew up outside Cannon Falls.
She then began her life as an immigrant to the United States and the wife of a St. Olaf professor. During sabbatical years she returned to Norway, and later in life, would make regular trips to see her mother and siblings. Well into her eighties, Ester traveled to Norway every summer, taking jaunts around the country with her niece, Vibeke Steineger. An easy and adventurous traveler, she made trips to Israel, Hong Kong, England, Wales, France and Italy and accompanied Lloyd as student supervisor on two St. Olaf semesters abroad in the Far East. She amazed everyone present as she traipsed lightly and happily over the broken planks on a swinging bridge high above Taroko Gorge in Taiwan. Courage and humor at unlikely moments were crucial to her inimitable personality. When she slipped and fell, she laughed. When the dog ate the roast, when she put pepper instead of cardamom in her rolls, when the old family car broke down a mile from home after making it to the West Coast and back, she howled with laughter.
Ester Vegan Hustvedt was an accomplished hostess, baker, arranger of flowers, and seamstress. She was the youngest and then the oldest member of Nordic Arts, a period that spanned five decades. She taught French at St. Dominic’s School in Northfield and worked for many years at the St. Olaf Library. She never stopped reading literature and was a member of several book clubs, including a play reading group and the venerable Margaret Evans Huntington Book Club, before her memory began to fail her around age ninety. In 1979, she had breast cancer. When she heard the news, her response was typical: “Why not me?” After Lloyd died in February of 2004, she moved to the Northfield Retirement Community. She kept old friendships and made new ones. She continued her habit of long walks alone, during which she picked flowers, grasses, and stones to take home. She flew to Nantucket each summer and frequently travelled to New York to visit her three daughters and grandchildren who live in the city. Her grandchildren remarked that they had the only grandmother who could run.
After several illnesses that almost killed her in 2012, Ester recovered and moved to Southview Suites at the NRC, where she was attended by a staff of caring aides, some of whom became her intimate friends. Ester’s family is deeply grateful to them. Ester Vegan Hustvedt was both sweet and fierce. She had an unerring sense of character—an uncanny ability to see into other people and understand who they were. She detested dishonesty, sentimentality, and cruelty. She is survived by her four daughters, their husbands and children: Siri Hustvedt, Paul Auster, Sophie Auster and Spencer Ostrander; Liv Remes Hustvedt, Stephen Remes, Lars and Sam Goldstein, Garret Remes and Burcum Türkmen, Caitlin and Daniel Remes; Astrid Hustvedt, Jon Kessler and Juliette Kessler; Ingrid Hustvedt, Bruce Cutler, and Ava and Ty Cutler.
Services at the Northfield Retirement Community Chapel on Saturday, October 26th at 3PM. Visitation, one hour prior. Memorials in her name may be made to the Norwegian American Historical Association or the Northfield Retirement Community.
Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home. www.northfieldfuneral.com