Linda Anne Lester (nee Wheeler) passed away peacefully but unexpectedly on Friday, November 17, due to complications following a fall. She was 81 years old. She is survived by her husband of almost 60 years Arthur Lester; her children Marty, Rebecca, and Joseph Lester and their families; her brother Christopher Wheeler and sister Robin Wheeler, and many extended family members. She was preceded in death by her parents Joseph and Shirley Wheeler, her son Ethan Lester, and her beloved horses Sandyman, Sassy, and Eeyore.
Linda’s sparkling personality, boundless generosity, and radiant warmth drew others to her throughout her whole lifetime. To know Linda was to know the personification of joy. She absolutely loved her life. She was happiest when she was with her family, spending time at the barn, or otherwise participating in Dressage activities, sharing with other friends of Bill, and socializing with her many, many friends.
Born and raised in Virginia, Linda came from a long line of illustrious and fascinating people, including Dr. Nina Mae Price (one of the first female doctors in the U.S.), Ms. Ella Belle Candy (a famous opera singer in her day) and Wayne B. Wheeler (the architect of American Prohibition). When Linda was 16, her father was appointed to the U.S.I.S. office in Rome, Italy, and the family moved across the sea, where Linda attended Marymount Highschool and made many new lifelong friends. Even at that young age, Linda’s spunk was in full force. To give just one example: during the 1960 Rome Olympics, she and some girlfriends threw tennis shoes over their shoulders and pretended to be athletes, brazenly waltzing right on into the Olympic Village without a second’s hesitation. That evening, her father came home from work to find several members of the U.S. Olympic basketball team stretched out on his living room floor watching TV. Always sports involved, she started the Marymount Cheer Leading team for Notre Dame Academy the related school for boys and continued as a Cheerleader through college.
At 18 Linda returned to the U.S. to attend Oberlin college, later graduating with a degree in psychology. It was at Oberlin that she met the absolute love of her life, Arthur. The two quickly became inseparable, which they remained for over 60 years. Even now, with the ultimate separation, we know that Linda is holding close to her beloved Art, wrapping him in love and comfort in his time of grief.
The couple lived in Chicago, Albany, and Washington D.C. before moving to Florida in 1973 with their two young children (Marty and Rebecca), with Joe being born soon thereafter.
Linda was a strong proponent of the Montessori approach to early childhood education, which Marty and Rebecca had benefitted from in D.C. Recognizing that there were no Montessori schools in Ft. Walton Beach, Linda decided that she and close friend, Marty Burkland would create one. This was no small feat: certified Montessori education requires obtaining specialized classroom tools, hiring specially trained teachers, and following the Montessori philosophy, all of which Linda and Marty orchestrated while raising young children. The Montessori school is still alive and well in Fort Walton Beach today.
Linda was truly an incredible mother and never let her children doubt for a second that they were cherished. Her expansive love and buoyancy of spirit nurtured in her children a commitment to try to care for others in everything they do. More than anything, she modeled what true love—as a mother, as a wife, and as a friend—really means, an example to which we will always aspire.
It is impossible to adequately capture a person’s life in a brief obituary or to do justice to the beautiful life force that animated Linda Lester. She will live on in all who loved her and were fortunate enough to share in her light.
A visitation will be held at Emerald Coast Funeral Home on Tuesday, November 21, 2023. Visitation will start at 1:00 PM, followed by the service at 2:00 and interment at Beal Memorial Cemetery. The service will be live-streamed. To join the service, please click here. A reception follows at Temple Beth Shalom, 227 Beak Parkway, NW at Nature’s Trail, Fort Walton Beach Florida.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you please make a donation in Linda’s name to your charity of choice.