1914 - 2008, Santa Barbara
Esther Relis, 93, died on January 22, 2008
Esther was born on September 16, 1914 in New York City to poor immigrant parents, Chava and Barrish Adelman, who came to the U.S. in 1912 from a village near Kiev in the Ukraine. By the age of 16 both her parents had died and she had to find work to help support her sisters and her brother.
At about the age of 20 Esther met Walter Relis who was a student at the City University of New York and NYU. They married in 1937 and began their lives together full of youthful idealism amidst the Great Depression's hardships. They championed workers rights and protested the growing tide of fascism.
During their first years together they spent their summers at Relis and Relis, a family style hotel in the Catskills where Esther kept the books and Walter waited tables.
With the outbreak of World War II Walter joined the Merchant Marines. By 1946 they were living in Long Beach California with their two sons, Peter and Paul and had started a medical supply business. It became one of the largest medical distribution companies in Southern California. As the company grew, Esther and Walter were able to travel the world to every continent but Africa.
They moved to Santa Barbara in the late 1960s to be closer to their sons who were attending UCSB. Esther and Walter were active in the community and supported many local organizations and causes. They loved folk dancing and attending concerts performed by the Santa Barbara Symphony.
But of all the things Esther valued, it was her family that she treasured most-family meant everything to her. When Walter died in 1999 Esther remained in their Rosemary Lane home as long as she could manage. She spent her last few years living in a cottage behind her son Peter and his wife Carol's home in Carpinteria where she was cared for with devotion by her family and her caregivers, Angeles and Silvia.
Esther is survived by her sons Peter and Paul of Santa Barbara, their wives Carol and Kathy, their grandchildren, Lisa, Lori, Andre, Mathew, Sarita and Mia and her three great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Esther's memory to the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara.