JJ's Tribute to His Mom, Esther Hathaway - Known as "The Gooch"

My Mother-In-Law Esther Hathaway and I share more than her son Jim. We share milestone birthdays. I am about to celebrate my 60th, tomorrow, November 9. But in spite of the fact I almost did not make it this year after an accident which landed me in the hospital for 3 weeks and 2 months of rehab (completely healed now thank you!) Esther has more on me, almost 30 years to the day, she reached the big 90! Esther, 90 is the new 60!

We travelled to Racine Wisconsin to honor her day with over 50 family and friends. Here is the moving tribute from her son, my husband. Mary Phelps Hathaway

I would like to introduce to you someone who has been very special and influential in not only my life, but to all of you as well. How many of you have heard of Clarabell the clown? No it’s not her although that was who would get me to take a nap when I didn’t want to. It was Gooch who, if I didn’t fall asleep, would tap her nails on the head board to pretend it was Clarabell. It didn’t take long to get to sleep then.

She is a veteran of World War II as an ordinance inspector that checked munitions before they were shipped out.

When I was a kid, we would all go camping in that first little pop-up camper which would eventually grow in size to a larger camper. It was one eventful night that we returned to the camper and I was sent ahead to make sure there were no critters in the campsite. After a few seconds I returned to the car to report that there were skunks in the camper. When no one believed me, they all went to see for themselves without me. After a few seconds they all came back, and we spent the night cramped in the car.

If you haven’t heard of any of her Estherisms, here are a few;


  • Don’t pee outside or you will get a canker sore.
  • If you’re having a problem with anyone…..just kill em’…. with kindness.
  • Always put some money in your pocket in case you have to make a phone call.
  • Always make sure you have clean underwear on in case you have to go to the hospital. Holding up my recently sliced and diced hand, I said, "this time I surprised them and went commando, knowing I was going to require surgery."
  • Always take your hat off in a restaurant.

She always had patience. When Jason my brother cut his arm by putting it through the front door window, she said into the telephone to whoever she was talking to, let me call you back, Jason had a little accident. Off we went to the hospital.

She is a great story teller, but a terrible liar because she will always snitch herself out.
At 90, she has a spotless driving record and has taught several of you that are here this afternoon.

She has an innate sense of knowing that the package she sent you is five minutes away from pulling into your driveway via the U.S. postal service, and then makes small talk with you until she clears her throat and asks, “did my package get there yet?” Yes mom, it just pulled in the driveway, at least it better be, or the mail man is in a heap of deep sheep dip!

She was a teacher by proxy. Although she didn’t know it at the time, I did learn how to write pretty well, my numbers, spelling ( thank God for spell check ), and how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, in a quarter cup, half cup, cup, pint quart, half gallon, gallon etc…… and most of all manners.

You never left her place on a trip without a bag lunch full of home made chocolate chip cookies a sandwich and a piece of fruit, and you better not come home with anything in the bag, or you better hide it.


  • We already had liquids, solids and gases and now plasma used mostly in televisions.
  • Practical flight as we now know it, helicopters, jets, rockets, men on the moon, and back.
  • Telephones and televisions in most homes and in multiples.
  • Computers in multiples in most homes and most pockets or purses.
  • Plastic money, tin type film, roll film, polaroid film and now digital film.
  • Daily mail instead of weekly mail, Fax machines, air mail, trans-Atlantic communications and now wireless communications.
  • The obsolete typewriter, pens, pencils and greeting cards, although, we still love to get those special cards from her, hand written.
  • The slide rule, now replaced by the calculator.
  • Who came first, the chicken, the egg or The Gooch?
  • Who came first, the potato chip bag or Gooch? The Gooch! The potato chip bag was invented in 1926, by Lois Scutter.
  • What came first, women’s right to vote, or Gooch? Women’s right to vote by only a few months.
  • What came first, prohibition or Gooch? Prohibition, by only a few months.
  • What came first, the Model ‘A’ the Model ‘T’ or Gooch? The Model ‘A’ then the Gooch and then the Model ‘T’.
  • What does Armistice Day, Veterans Day and The Gooch all have in common? They were all born on November 11th.

Happy birthday Mom, Esther, Gooch, Gramma and Great-Gramma!

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