Cramer, Esther Ridgway,
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noted La Habra and Orange County historian, businesswoman and philanthropist passed away on April 15, 2012, at the age of 85, after a long and heroic battle with ovarian cancer. Esther died only 14 weeks after her beloved husband Stanley E. Cramer died. They had been married 63 years and made their home in La Habra.
Esther was born in the Ridgway citrus grove ranch house on North Cypress Street in La Habra, to Ida and Claude Ridgway, a long time citrus rancher and early settler in Orange County. She attended Washington Elementary School in La Habra and Fullerton High School where she excelled in academics and sports. Esther graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Biology.
After the birth of her three daughters, Esther returned to college to complete her general secondary teaching credential. A term paper based on her reel to reel recordings of Old Settlers of La Habra written for a Western geography course lead to eight years of research into the history of La Habra and her starting the oral history program at Cal State University, Fullerton. This became the first of Esther's award winning publications focused on Orange County history. Her first book La Habra: The Pass Through the Hills was published in 1969 and won awards from the American Association for State and Local History and University of California, Irvine.
The book attracted the attention of the Alpha Beta Company and lead to a commissioned history of the company, The Alpha Beta Story, published in 1973. Esther was asked to assume the position of Public Relations Administrator for Alpha Beta which involved taking groups on tours of the extensive facilities at the Corporate Headquarters located in La Habra. Esther then took over as Director of Consumer Affairs which included responsibilities as Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Council of the Food Marking Institute in Washington D.C. and serving on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Inspection Board. Esther was named Vice President of Community Relations at Alpha Beta in 1979. In that role she became a Pillsbury Bake-Off judge and represented Alpha Beta on many local civic and business Boards, including the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Businessmen Association. Esther was named to the Southern California Grocer's Hall of Fame in 1983, the first woman to receive the award.
In 1973, Esther was appointed by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to the newly chartered Orange County Historical Commission. She also served as chairman of the Commission and President of the Orange County Historical Society and County Pioneer Council. In 1975 she was appointed La Habra's U.S. Bicentennial/La Habra 50th Birthday Celebration Chairman, and from 1987-89 she served as Vice Chairman of the Orange County Centennial. She has chaired the Orange County Area Council of the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of America, the La Habra-Brea Boys' and Girls' Clubs, Orange County Centennial Scholarship Fund and the La Habra Old Settlers and served on the Advisory Board of the La Habra Children's Museum, Patrons of the Library, Cal State Fullerton and the Automobile Club of Southern California. Esther also served as P.T.A. President and was awarded with the Lifetime Membership Award for service.
Other books written by Esther Cramer included: Brea, the City of Oil, Oranges and Opportunities (1992) and The Bell in the Barranca (1996). She edited A Hundred Years of Yesterdays (1989) and Early Businesses in Orange County (1992). Many of the oral histories of La Habra's pioneer families were recorded by Esther in the early 1960s and are now available in book form at Cal State Fullerton.
Esther is survived by three daughters, Cynthia Freeman, Melinda (Ward) Ching and Janet Buddle and their children, Bri and David Freeman, Christopher and Andrew Ching, Patrick Esguerra and Chanel Brooks.
A private family burial has already taken place at Rose Hills Memorial Park. A memorial service celebrating Esther's life will take place at 11 a.m. on June 9, 2012, at the La Habra United Methodist Church.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Esther's memory to the La Habra Historical Museum, the La Habra United Methodist Church, or USC Norris Cancer Hospital Gift Fund.
Published in Orange County Register on May 6, 2012