Esther Beck was born in 1900 in Seoul Korea, where her parents were missionaries. She lived with them until she was sixteen when she went to Franklin Academy in Nebraska and to Ohio Wesleyan College in Delaware, Ohio. There she met Olin Stockwell. They were both active in the Methodist Student Volunteer Movement.
Esther and Olin were married in Ohio in 1924. They moved to Oklahoma where Olin was pastor at several churches. In 1929 they moved to Foochow in China as missionaries and in 1935 to Chengdu. Esther taught music at the university level in both these places. While on furlough in 1941, she completed her master’s degree in music. In 1946 she and Olin returned to China where she returned to teaching music. She started a choir among the students at the Canadian School and those who were in it will remember what fun it was to sing under her direction. We had a least one concert for the community. It seems that Esther also wrote music, as two hymns with music by Esther and words by Olin were included in her memorial service
Phyllis Allen had the pleasure of traveling with the Stockwells from Chengdu to Chongqing in the spring of 1950. It was a stress-filled trip. The Stockwells had hired a car and a driver to make the trip. By this time, the communist government of Mao was in place and travel was severely restricted. Formal permission was required before you could travel, and it was necessary to have the proper documentation. We were stopped at every town where our identity was checked. There was an added danger in that remnants of the Nationalist armies had disappeared into the remote countryside and vehicles on the road were often attacked and robbed. After the usual overnight stop at Neichang, we continued on safely to Chongqing.
After leaving Chongqing, where Olin was arrested and imprisoned for more than a year, the Stockwells took up work at Trinity Seminary in Singapore for twelve years. Again Esther taught music. They met up with the Holth family in Singapore. Tom and Inger had been students at the CS from 1947-1949. Tom wrote a letter to Phyllis in the early 1950s, but there has been no contact since.
The Stockwells retired to Denver, Colorado in 1972. Esther lived at Sunny Acres Retirement Home until her death on October 16, 1992. She had one son, Foster, who attended the Canadian School and heads a publishing company in California, Phyllis believes.
(Written by Phyllis Donaghy and extracted from the brief biography of Esther included at her memorial service.)