NATICK: Esther E. (Bassick) Whittaker, age 102, of Milford, a longtime Natick resident and an owner/teacher at Walnut Hill Nursery School, died peacefully on Wednesday afternoon, February 6, 2013, at Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation – Eliot in Natick. She was the devoted wife of Ervine F. Whittaker for 40 years.
Born in Jamaica Plain on September 4, 1910, she was a daughter of the late Franklin T. and Florence (Naumann) Bassick. Raised primarily in Roslindale, Esther was a graduate of Boston’s High School of Practical Arts. She was a member of the 1929 graduating class of Framingham Normal School and was to date its oldest living alumna. She was presented with a clock by Framingham State at her 75th class reunion in 2004, and attended her 80th reunion in 2009.
Esther taught in the Art Department at Roxbury Memorial High School until her marriage in 1935. She and Ervine settled in Natick in 1941, where she created a warm and fostering home for her growing family. Faced with a lack of a public kindergarten in town, the Whittaker’s decided to start their own and founded the Walnut Hill Nursery School in 1948. In addition to teaching full time and caring for her family, Esther was an active member of Saint Patrick’s Catholic Women’s Club, the Natick Women’s Club, the New Natick Committee, a charter member and first president of the Natick Women’s Club, and a president of the Quota Club. She and Ervine continued to run their school together until his death in 1975. She sold it shortly thereafter and focused much of her attention on the Natick Council on Aging.
A former president and past secretary of the Council, Esther took an active role in planning and overseeing trips for The Friends of the Senior Center. She taught art classes and was happy to attend classes on several topics herself. She loved doing oil painting and created many original works. One of these was of the original Senior Center on Grant Street which hung for many years in Natick’s second Senior Center.
A member of the Goldennaires, Esther enjoyed singing, tap and line dancing. She was a quilter, hooked rugs and excelled at crewel work. In addition to bowling and swimming with her fellow seniors, she had become intrigued by Tai Chi. She happily volunteered her service and advice to SMOC, visited residents at Mary Ann Morse, and worked with others in the Low Sight Club. Esther was a resident of Cedar Gardens and served as chairperson and secretary of their Tenants Council. For many years she also wrote and produced “The Chimes”, the Cedar Gardens newsletter. In her spare time Esther loved playing bingo, visiting local restaurants and going on day trips with her many friends.
It was lack of sight that eventually slowed Esther’s extraordinary pace. She developed Macular Degeneration in her late eighties and moved to assisted living at Whitcomb House in Milford in 2003. A devout Catholic and longtime parishioner of Saint Patrick’s church, Esther enjoyed attending Mass at Cedar Gardens while residing there and, after her move to Milford, looked forward to Wednesday morning Communion Services. As long as she could she took part in craft classes, played bingo, and especially loved trivia contests and spellings bees of which she was often the winner. She remained an artist at heart, could still recite poetry and quote from great works of literature, and in her last weeks regaled those caring for her at Eliot with the Gettysburg Address – verbatim. Her family is grateful that they have many beautiful paintings, calligraphy samples, and craftworks of hers as a legacy for future generations to enjoy.
Predeceased by her son Francis in 2011, she is survived by a daughter, Carolyn E. Carey and her husband Thomas of Bellingham; a son, John P. Whittaker and his wife Joan of Scituate; a daughter-in-law, Ann Whittaker of Haverhill; eight grandchildren, Catherine Cryan of Haverhill, Anne Carey of Hopkinton, Douglas Whittaker of LA, Michael Carey of Milford, Deborah Whittaker of Scituate, Elizabeth Marché of VA, James Whittaker of ME, and Allyson Delaney of CA; 14 great-grandchildren, Lillian, Gustav, Rosalie, Emily, Samantha, Heather, Nicholas, Danielle, Mason, Claire, Harrison, Casey, Grace, and Michaela; and a sister-in-law, Mary Bassick of Medway. Esther was also the sister of the late Naumann, Bernice, and Adelaide Bassick.
Her funeral will be from the John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park Street at Natick Common, Natick, on Friday, Feb. 15th at 9:00a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial In St. Patrick’s Church, 44 East Central Street, Natick, at 10:00a.m. Burial will follow at St. Patrick Cemetery.
Visiting hours will be Thursday 4 -7p.m. Donations may be made in Esther’s memory to the Natick Senior Center, c/o Natick Council on Aging, 117 East Central St., Natick, MA 01760.