Cover photo for Karen Jean Esselstyn's Obituary
Karen Jean Esselstyn Profile Photo

Karen Jean Esselstyn

d. July 21, 2023

Karen Jean Esselstyn

Karen Jean Esselstyn of Quincy, Massachusetts. Karen J. Esselstyn, 62, died unexpectedly on Friday July 21, 2023 at her home. She was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1961, the first child of Theodore P. and Joan M. (Kehm) Esselstyn. She experienced numerous changes in her childhood, moving to Quincy, Massachusetts when two months old, and to New Haven, Connecticut a year later, then to Wallingford, and Derby, Connecticut where she started school and acquired two siblings, Barbara Louise, and William Roger, during the next six years. At age seven she traveled with her missionary parents to Arthurseat, South Africa and started boarding school at White River. It was there that everyone became aware of her ability and desire to care for others, for she quickly became the caretaker of the missionary children at the boarding school. This loving, caring, concern was the hallmark of the rest of her life despite the many painful physical problems she faced.

The family moved to Florida, South Africa, when she started High School, and that was when she began her lengthy struggle with scoliosis that culminated in a three month stay in an immobilizing Stryker bed in the hospital following surgery. During that time she felt God calling her to a nursing profession but her doctors assured her that would not be possible.

Upon graduation from High School she was accepted into the Nursing program at the Johannesburg Hospital and the B.Sc. Nursing at Witwatersrand University. She graduated three years later with credentials as a nurse and midwife and took a position at Johannesburg Hospital where she worked for ten years as the nurse in charge of the ward that cared for children undergoing organ transplants and who received immunosuppressants. During those years her own immune system was severely challenged which affected her the rest of her life but never changed her loving care for her patients and for everyone else she knew.

Following the restructure of the South African medical system that began in 1994 she moved back to Quincy Massachusetts and served in the children’s or neonatal wards at Saint Elizabeth, Brigham and Women’s and Beth Israel Deaconess hospitals where she worked until her body could no longer cope with the work. Her focus in life continued to be service to others and especially as the beloved aunt to her three nephews, Brandon Day, Jacob Esselstyn, Benjamin Day and her niece, Amy Esselstyn.

She was predeceased by her mother, Joan M. (Kehm) Esselstyn, and is survived by the above-named niece and nephews, her father, Theodore P. Esselstyn, her married sister, Barbara (Esselstyn) and Brian Day, and her married brother, William and Annetta (Porter) Esselstyn.

Karen Esselstyn’s Celebration of Life Service
11:00am, on August 5th
Wollaston Church of the Nazarene
37 E. Elm Avenue Quincy MA 02170.A light reception will be held immediately after the service in the Metcalfe Gathering Room located in the lower level of the church. The family will be available before and after the service if you would like to greet them.

In lieu of flowers donations to the “ANU William and Margaret Esselstyn Endowment Fund” ( are preferred. The fund celebrates the lives of Karen and her beloved grandparents, providing scholarships for students attending Nazarene universities and colleges in Africa.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Karen Jean Esselstyn, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Celebration of Life Service

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Wollaston Church of the Nazarene

37 East Elm Avenue, Quincy, MA 02170

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