Born April 9, 1919, Esther Tootelian is remembered on her 102 birthday as the kind, caring, gracious and generous co-founder of Gar Tootelian, Inc.
She was a Fresno County native and a graduate of California State University Fresno at a time when women didn’t go to college. While she was known for her silver hair, impeccable taste and classy style, many are often surprised to learn that she taught High School woodshop until her marriage to Gar in 1944. Her daughter, Karen Musson, remembers once scouring the countryside for an antique ice box. With Esther’s “woodshop” help, the two created a new family treasure.
Gar and Esther were the ultimate team and there wasn’t much they didn’t do together. Esther kept the business books and even helped growers load fertilizer in their trucks while raising a family. The two loved farming and gardening. Gutta, eggplant, tomatoes and Anaheim hot chilies were annual specialties in their garden with plenty to share with friends. “Grandma and Grandpa always had a plate of hot peppers on the table between them,” says granddaughter, Christina Musson-Rendon. “One Thanksgiving, I snagged one of the peppers and ate it before they could stop me. I can still feel the burning on my tongue 30 years later! I learned my lesson that day.”
Esther loved to sew. One Christmas she made Christina a life-size doll dressed in a new outfit for her. She was a great cook of everything—especially all things Armenian. Yalanchi (stuffed grape leaves) and chorag (aka “Cookie Jar”) were favorites. She loved a strong cup of hot black coffee and her weekly trip on Fridays to the hairdresser to maintain her signature silver hair and see friends. She also loved a good party. Always the first to arrive and last to leave—so we know that on April 9, she will be celebrating.