Obituary written and submitted by family:
Esther May (Royer) Ayers
Born May 18, 1938 on the family’s farm in Columbiana Ohio, Esther May Royer was one of eight siblings raised as an Old Order Mennonite for the first 16 years of her life. She attended Columbiana Public Schools until 1955. Upon her father’s death, the Royer family moved to Akron Ohio, where Esther graduated from North High School in 1957, and then began work at B.F. Goodrich from 1957 to 1964.
It was at Goodrich that she would meet the love of her life, her husband of nearly 60 years, Jim Ayers.
Esther and Jim raised two sons, Jimmy and Donny, as she would refer to them. Jim’s career took the family throughout the US, living in locations ranging from Connecticut to Arkansas. As the family relocated to a new home each year, Esther focused on raising her boys and supporting her husband’s career, postponing her own interests and dreams until she could complete what she believed was her most important role as a mother and wife.
After her two sons left for college, Esther began to pursue those dreams by continuing her education at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock where she earned a B.S. in Biology in 1986.
She later worked in the Wilmington Delaware laboratories of the AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, supporting research, development, and quality control (1987-1993).
Esther and Jim retired to Tampa Florida in 1993, where Esther became actively involved in the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, as the writer and editor of their quarterly newsletter.
Meanwhile, she had a story to tell and aspired to become a published author. Esther’s most well-known publication is a memoir of her childhood entitled “Rolling Down Black Stockings: A Passage out of the Old Order Mennonite Religion”, published in 2005 by the Kent State University Press.
In addition to “Rolling Down Black Stockings, Esther’s publications include “Flights of the Herons” a fiction published in 2001; and a memoir entitled “A Heritage that Money Can’t Buy” which she co-authored with Sarah Rhodes Blosser Oberlin, published in 1997.
Jim and Esther moved from Tampa to Tucson Arizona in 2005, and again in 2018 to Murrieta California, each time to be closer to her children and grandchildren. Soon after their most recent move, Esther was hospitalized in Temecula and passed away on June 19, 2018.
Esther was preceded in death by her parents, Walter E. Royer (1903 – 1953) and Fannie R. Rhodes Royer (1906 – 1989).
She is survived by her husband Jim, whom she married on October 31, 1959; and her two sons Jim Jr. (Doreen) of San Diego, California, and Don (Sandy) of Thousand Oaks, California.
Being raised as an Old Order Mennonite, Esther regarded herself as a modest person, but nonetheless she was very proud of her six grandchildren: Zack, Nick, Jacob, Cody, Dan and Chris.
Esther is survived by two siblings, Ruth Royer (1936) of Kent, Ohio and John Royer (1941) of Norton Ohio. She was preceded in death by her siblings Mark Royer (1933-2017), Grace (Royer) Burke (1934-2004), Sarah Royer (1937-1988), Frank Royer (1940-2017), and Paul Royer (1943-2010).
Esther was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. She will be missed dearly, and remembered always in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to know and love her.
Private services will be held for her family. Her body will be laid to rest at the Midway Mennonite Cemetery in Columbiana Ohio.