GREENFIELD – Esther Winn Krebs, born August 2, 1920, died peacefully at home on July 3, 2016, just one month shy of her 96th birthday. She was born in Karuizawa, Japan, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries Rowena (Hudson) Winn and Merle Winn.
Esther lived in Kanazawa, Japan until she was seven and then returned to the United States when her father became ill. Upon his death, her mother settled with Esther and her two brothers, Hudson and Peter, in Northampton, MA. Esther graduated from Northampton School for Girls (now Williston – Northampton) and then went on to Smith College, graduating in 1942 with a degree in economics.
On August 8, 1942 in Carmel, CA she married her true love, Max Vance Krebs. He was a Princeton University honors graduate, whom she met during her freshman year of college while visiting her mother in Cincinnati, OH. During World War II, the couple lived in Oakland, CA where Max was stationed with the army.
After the war in 1947, Max was accepted into the U.S. Foreign Service and for the next 29 years Max and Esther served as a “”diplomatic team””, living and working in 9 different countries. Their first post was Montevideo, Uruguay where their daughter Marlynn was born just 3 months after they arrived. From there they went to Bogota, Colombia and Antwerp, Belgium. In 1955, they moved to Bethesda, MD for a “”home duty”” stint at the Dept. of State. This was where their son Timothy was born in 1957. Their home duty was extended due to Max’s assignment as special assistant to Secretary of State Christian Herter.
In 1961, they returned to their diplomatic life abroad, moving to Manila, Philippine Islands, then Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, followed by Guatemala City, Guatemala, then the Panama Canal Zone, Panama and Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1973, Max was appointed Ambassador to Guyana where they lived in the capital city of Georgetown. This post was the culmination of their distinguished career. In 1976, Max and Esther retired from the Foreign Service and settled in the quiet golf community of Foxfire Village, NC, located near Pinehurst, NC.
Esther was deeply invested in her life as a diplomat’s wife. She and Max strongly believed that they were equal partners in this career, a dedicated and interdependent team. This was the Foreign Service ethos in those days and Esther had all the qualities that made her a successful example of what the diplomat’s wife could contribute. Esther took on the many challenges of this life with her characteristic gusto, strong sense of humor and positive, take-charge attitude. She saw any challenges as adventure. She once said about this Foreign Service life, “”I made up my mind I would enjoy it, and I did!””
She was skilled at gracefully adapting to the nuances of a new culture, finding a new home, settling her family and setting up a household, all while learning a new language, which she did with almost every new post. She was an accomplished hostess, conversationalist, event planner and cook. Entertaining was a primary way that diplomats established relationships with important people in the country. Esther planned events for over 500 people, often teaching the cook how to prepare special dishes. She was accomplished at putting people at ease and her conversations with dignitaries showed her knowledge of the country, the culture and current events. She was known for her honest and intelligent interactions that showed care and respect for other values and cultural backgrounds. Esther was also an excellent leader, organizing and running many large charity events that benefited the infrastructure and those most in need in the country where she was posted. Her leadership style was to empower the people she worked with and build their skills and competence.
In her retirement years, Esther continued her life of service. As part of the Woodrow Wilson Fellow program, Esther and Max visited 9 small liberal arts colleges for a week at a time, talking with students about the pleasures and perils of living and working overseas. She loved the arts and served on the board of The Arts Council of Moore County in Southern Pines, NC for more than 10 years. She also served as its president for several years. She was instrumental in supporting the start of her local North Carolina chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and was its president for several years.
Esther was a multi-talented woman with many interests that filled her life. She was an accomplished singer and performer. She was a member of the Smith College Glee Club, sang with her church choir wherever she was, performed for charity events abroad and at home, and organized female barbershop quartets whenever she could. She was an excellent seamstress and knitter and made many clothes for herself and her family through the years. She loved the game of tennis and played it most every day in retirement. She was an avid and dangerous bridge player as many can attest. She loved to cook and when she retired she was thrilled to be able to finally grow her own garden! In spite of 29 years of travel, Esther and Max continued to have wanderlust and toured many of the parts of Europe and the Middle East that they had never visited. Through Esther’s love of art and her years of travel abroad, she was able to collect beautiful and interesting artifacts, art and furniture. Her home was like a museum.
In 1998, Esther and Max moved to Belle Meade Retirement Community in Southern Pines, NC. In 2006, Max, her husband of 63 years, died after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for 9 years. During those very difficult years Esther was devoted to caring for him. In 2010, Esther moved back to Massachusetts to be with her daughter and son. She was very fond of saying that after traveling the world, she had now come full circle, returning to the home where she began as a young girl.
Esther was an elegant woman who lived a rich and full life yet remained unpretentious and generous. She so often thought of others first. She was loved and admired by all those whose lives she touched, and she touched many. Once in reflecting on her life she said, “”It was exciting and rewarding while full of hard work, but as the Bible says ‘everything I have given, I have received a thousand times.'”” That was Esther Winn Krebs.
Esther leaves her daughter, Marlynn K. Clayton and her husband Garry Krinsky of Greenfield; her son, Timothy Krebs of Greenfield; her grandson, Sasha Clayton of Washington, DC; and her favorite adoring grandpuppy, Frankie. In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her two brothers and their wives, Hudson and Nancy Winn of Slingerlands, NY and Peter and Sylvia Winn of Cambridge, MA.
Her family would like to thank Hospice of Franklin County and especially Debbie Piela for their care and support in these last months; the Eventide Singers for bringing Esther the peace and joy of music; and her wonderful caregivers from the Arbors, her devoted private care team, Linda Clarke, Shirley Underwood, and especially, Nancy Wheeler who took care of her with great love for 6+ years.