Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 21, 2013

Estherdale Stephens


MT. VERNON — — Estherdale Montgomery Stephens, 92, of Mt. Vernon, passed away 9:55 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at Crossroads Community Hospital in Mt. Vernon.

Estherdale, nee Montgomery, Stephens, daughter of Albert Ross and Laura Leatha Boone Montgomery, was born June 19, 1920, in Valley Junction, Iowa, later renamed West Des Moines.  In 1935, after attending elementary school and freshman year at Valley High, she moved with her family to Blue Island, Illinois.  In 1937, Stephens graduated from Blue Island Community High School having held first chair in the high school band, winning first place in the clarinet solo contest as well as first place in debate during her junior and senior years. College undergraduate work was completed on a scholarship at Chicago Teacher's College in 1941, where she majored in science and education.

Many lifetime decisions were made in June 1941, with graduation from college, her 21st birthday, the beginning of a forty year education career and a lifetime commitment as the wife of Howard Albert Stephens. Their marriage took place in the parsonage at Olalika, Ala., on Dec. 27, 1941, while he was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. They were blessed with the celebration of 64 years of marriage before Howard was called to the Lord on June 22, 2006.  Janice Rae, a war baby, arrived on Aug. 29, 1943, with Emily Kaye, a baby boomer, arriving on Nov. 30, 1946.

Stephens taught science in Columbus, Ga. High School until Howard was sent with Gen. Patton's 4th Division to the European Theater of WW2. At the time she returned to Illinois teaching for 25 years in a classroom and 15 additional years in administration and supervision, having earned her Master's Degree at Purdue University in 1967.

Active in her profession, she served as President to the South Cook County Council of Exceptional Children as well as the President of the South Suburban Learning Disabilities Association.  In 1953, she was named Homewood, Illinois' Teacher of the Year. She served as the teacher representative on the original three year monitoring committee as special education was mandated in Illinois. For several terms she served as an adjunct instructor in the graduate program of National College of Education.

Her family was her greatest enjoyment but traveling, teaching, square dancing, round dancing and all kinds of ballroom dancing came in a close second. She traveled with her husband widely in their motor home throughout the United States and, also, extensively in 6 continents via air and cruise ship. For 26 years she and her husband made their winter home in Arizona. While raised a Methodist, she was baptized in the First Baptist Church in Chicago Heights. And most recently attended the Baptist Temple in Mt. Vernon. Estherdale was also a member of the Jefferson County Home and Community Education Association.

She is survived by  daughters, Janice Wagner (Walter) of Scheller and Emily Kaye Simmons (Larry) of Orland Park; three grandchildren, Stephen Wagner (Sharmin) of Scheller, Susan Pfeiffer (Randy) of Haubstadt, Indiana and Kristin Giamo (Brian) of Little Silver,  N.J.; six great-grandchildren, Elizabeth, Helaena, Nicholas Pfeiffer, Caitlin Wagner and Gabbrella and Genevieve Giamo; and dear sister-in-law, Virginia Lee (Hazel) Montgomery of Missoula, Mont.

Stephens was preceded in death by her husband, Howard; her parents; brothers, Harold Vernon Montgomery and Kenneth Boone Montgomery; and a great-grandson, Kenneth George Wagner.

Memorial services for Estherdale will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Newell Funeral Home in Mt. Vernon with Pastor Ron Reynolds officiating. The family will receive friends from 5 p.m. until service time on Saturday at Newell Funeral Home in Mt. Vernon.

For those who wish, memorials may be made to the Bible Truth Broadcast Radio Ministry and will be accepted at Newell Funeral Home 2707 N. Street, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864.

For more information, call Newell Funeral Home at 246-0100 or visit online at for online obituary and online condolences.