DURHAM: Mary Esther Williams Harward, 96, died at home Tuesday. A Durham native, she was born January 6, 1918 in Watts Hospital to Claude B. and Ruth Gentry Williams. Mary Esther was educated at George Watts Elementary School, Carr Junior High School and Durham High School. Following graduation in 1940 from Meredith College, she began a 37-year career as a third grade teacher, spending most of her tenure at Watts Street School. She adored children and will be remembered as one of Durham’s beloved and gifted teachers with an enduring positive influence.
Mary Esther was a lifelong member of First Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir and taught Sunday school to 5 year olds for more than 30 years. In later years she was a member of the church’s Loyalty Class, where she valued her many friendships.
After retirement Mary Esther enjoyed working as a volunteer at Duke Hospital’s gift shop and the Caring Center at First Baptist. She was a member of Alpha Delta Kappa teachers’ sorority, Alpha Mu chapter.
Mary Esther stayed busy throughout her long and productive life. She spent hours-on-end doing beautiful hand work, working in her yard, reading, and taking trips with friends and family.
Surviving are her daughters, Susan Harward and Cheryl Harward, both of Durham, her brother, Claude B. Williams of Durham and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased in 1999 by her husband, Ray Harward. Mary Esther was devoted to her many pet dogs over the years, all of whom she considered a part of her family.
Funeral services will be 2:00 PM Saturday in the Chapel of Hall-Wynne Funeral Service, with friends received in the funeral home Saturday from 1-2:00 PM. Burial will follow in Maplewood Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Independent Animal Rescue, animalresuce.net or PO Box 14232, Durham 27709. On-line memorials: hallwynne.com.