The Free Spirit and Passionate Soul That Lives on in the Trees

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Posted Wed, May 10, 2017

Ester Urista’s passion showed through her work as she covered labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

LONE TREE, Colo. – Maria Ester Urista, known as Ester to those who knew her, was the oldest of five children. Her passion for cooking, reading, the great outdoors and life, fueled her free spirit and fiery side.

Ester’s passion for her family forced her to take on the role of caring for her younger siblings, forcing her grow up at a young age. Some of her favorite things to cook for her brothers and sister were flour tortillas and Spanish rice.

“She really liked to cook and take care of us, I know she cared about me a lot and would protect me,” said Ofelia Urista-Lopez, her little sister. Ester’s love for her family showed in her actions. Growing up in El Paso, Texas in the ‘60s, Ester’s first job was at a Dairy Queen in where she would bring home ice cream “mistakes” for her siblings to munch on.

Right after graduating High School, Ester, then 17, left Texas to attend University of Southern California in Los Angeles and pursued a career in journalism. During her time there she was a writer and a photojournalist for the LA Times.

Ester’s passion showed through her work as she covered labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and his marches to improve treatment, pay, and working conditions of farm workers. Her passion for exposing the injustices of Mexican farm workers ultimately caused her to lose her job with the LA Times.

Former LA Times photographer Ester Urista moved to Colorado and continued her passion for the outdoors and writing for a newspaper in Winter Park.

“She wrote articles in the paper and then marched with him and she was banned from the city and Ventura County, she was a persona non grata,” Ofelia said.

Ester’s free spirit allowed her to go wherever she wanted. She moved to Tucson, Arizona and taught English to students at a Community College. A hippie at heart, Ofelia recalled a story when she visited her sister in Tucson that she will never forget.

“I was all stressed out and she told me ‘Let’s go for a ride,’” Ofelia said, during that ride she said that’s when her sister offered her a joint to “de-stress.”

In the early ‘80s Ester moved to the mountains of Colorado. Her final years were spent in Colorado where she continued her passion for the outdoors and writing, working for a local newspaper in Winter Park.

In the summer of 1989, Ester suffered a brain aneurysm while mountain biking – she was 42. Ofelia remembers the gut feeling she had that day. “I remember getting this awful headache and got sick and fell asleep. At six I got a call from the hospital,” she said.

The next day on July 2, Ester went into brain surgery. Ofelia talked about her last moments with her older sister. “I kissed her and they took her, but I knew that I wasn’t going to see her anymore.”

Ester died during the surgery on July 2, 1989.

“Ester loved the trees and she would always say when people die their spirits go to the trees and they look over you. I look at the trees and I just think she’s there.”

 

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