micki portrait  A local obituary

  Mom's death on October 27, 1999 was acknowledged by an obituary/article in the Gainesville Sun the following day. The text below comes from the paper's archives, which are currently under construction.

Thursday, October 28, 1999

Local reverend dies of cancer

Sun staff writer

It was a personal life and death struggle with cancer carried out on the Internet for the world to see, and Wednesday morning that fight ended for the Rev. June Mitchell "Micki" Esselstyn.

The Rev. Esselstyn, 57, of Gainesville, died in her home of brain cancer that was discovered in January.
[Photo of Mom]
June Mitchell "Micki" Esselstyn

"There's enormous relief that Micki doesn't have to go through this any more; it's been a long haul," said her husband, Erik.

Twenty years earlier, Erik Esselstyn was the family member battling cancer, and the couple had taken the same open approach to the disease, sharing their stories in a series of articles in the Charlotte Observer newspaper. They coined the rule "share the scare and hear the fear" as a way of openly dealing with the mental and physical trauma that comes with cancer.

Erik Esselstyn said taking Micki's story to the Internet via www.esselstyn.com was a way to keep in touch with friends they had made over the years when they lived in Blue Hill, Maine, New Haven, Conn., and Charlotte, N.C., as well as their large extended family and members of churches where she served. The Web site contained photos and deeply personal notes from family members and friends.

"It was a way to share with close friends the journey Micki was on," he said.

"It was something they could never get from a letter or a phone call."

And along the way, strangers from around the world added their comments to the site and were touched by its openness, courage and humor.

Erik Esselstyn said a friend described it as "a model for death in a society that fears it."

"It was kind of an open acknowledgement of something that will happen to all of us one day," he said.

The Rev. Esselstyn was an ordained United Church of Christ minister and had served as the interim minister of the Union Congregational Church in Tavares and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville.

She was member of the United Church of Gainesville, where she was an active volunteer and choir member.

She worked as a Guardian Ad Litem counselor and served for two years as a volunteer chaplain in the pediatric department at Shands at the University of Florida.

The Rev. Esselstyn was born in Washington, D.C. She was a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She received a master's degree in social work from Boston University and a master's degree in divinity from New York Theological Seminary.

In addition to her husband, survivors include a daughter, June "Jody" Esselstyn of New Haven; a son, Blakeman Bingham Esselstyn of Boston; her mother, June Bingham Birge and stepfather, Robert B. Birge of Riverdale, N.Y.; two sisters, Sherrell Bingham Downes of Chestnut Hill, Mass., and Claudia Bingham Myers of Great Falls, Va.; and a brother, Timothy Woodbridge Bingham of New Haven.

A memorial service will take place at the United Church of Gainesville. The family requests that expressions of sympathy be made as memorial gifts to Cross Creek Initiative, 117 NW 16th Ave., Gainesville, 32601.

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