Sunset Funeral Home
1800 St. George Rd., Evansville

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Esther VanCleave

June 23, 1926 - December 7, 2018


  1. REPLY
    Harmon & Shirley Feather says

    Esther was good friend in life and at church James and her always had a smile. God be with your family for comfort. Will be praying for the family.

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Esther VanCleave, 92, passed away on December 7, 2018. She was born on June 23, 1926 to Jesse and Marguerite Luffman in Wolcott, New York. She was raised on the family apple orchard and farm.

Esther married in 1947 to James VanCleave who she met while at nursing school.  She spent most of her life as a nurse. She graduated from Wagner College in Staten Island, NY with a degree in nursing.  She would eventually continue her education at Indiana University where she earned her graduate degree leading to her becoming a nurse practitioner. She worked in all of the hospitals in Evansville at different times before going to work for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation as a school nurse. She worked mostly at Oak Hill Elementary School but served at Vogel and Scott Elementary Schools.  She would also perform sports physicals for North High School students.

James and Esther were members of Walnut Street Baptist Church, relocating with the congregation when it moved to Division Street and changed its name to First Southern Baptist Church of Evansville.  They have been members for most of their time in Evansville.  She worked with the pre-school and children classes.

Esther loved music. In high school she played the violin. Later in life, she was the organist for her church and weddings for over forty years.  She listened to many genres of music but big band, classical and gospel were tops.

She also enjoyed watching sports, especially with family.  She watched Colts football, IU basketball, and Cardinals baseball.  She loved going with “Jimmy” to Harrison High School football and basketball games where he taught.

Outside was her preferred place to be next to being with family.  Swimming and walking were a couple of her favorite outdoor activities.  She also loved traveling.  She and her husband traveled to all of the states including Alaska and Hawaii.

She was an avid reader.  Daily Bible study was a constant.  She also read mystery novels.  Crossword and word searches were other common activities you would find her doing. You would likely find a cup of coffee nearby.

With all that she has done, the biggest contribution was her smile.  She always had a smile for anyone she saw or met.  Her smile survived even as dementia was claiming her mind.

Esther is survived by her sons James (Diane) VanCleave and Timothy (Michelle) VanCleave; son-in-law Tom Gould; grandchildren Jennifer (David) Rocho, Melissa (Mark) Russell, Andy (Rebecca) Gould, Brad (Andi) Gould, Nathan VanCleave, Jonathan “J.T.” (Kayla) VanCleave, Rachel VanCleave; great-grandchildren Katherine Rocho; Spencer Rocho, Charles Rocho, Henry Rocho, William Russell, Adeline Russell, Grace Gould, Avery Gould, Drew Gould, Loralei Gould, Gigi Gould, Monty Gould Zeek Gould, Nelly Gould, Caden VanCleave and Adalyn VanCleave; and close family relatives Charlie and Doris Carter.

Esther is preceded in death by her husband James VanCleave; her parents Jesse and Marguerite (Lusk) Luffman; her sister Aidamae Luffman; and her oldest child daughter Clara Jean Gould.

A celebration of life will be on Saturday, December 15th at Sunset Funeral Home. Visitation begins at 10:00 AM with a service to directly follow at 3:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Youth First.