For those of us not blessed with lifelong, full-time Rappahannock residency, we knew Ester Settle primarily by reputation. And what a reputation it was:
“The little woman with the enormous heart,” in the words of one county native. “The little engine that could.” There was no obstacle that could not be overcome when the cause was just and neighbors were in need. “Nobody ever went hungry around her.”
She wasn’t born in Rappahannock County but in humble circumstances on, as it were, the less fortunate side of the tracks — the other side of the mountains. Hers was “a real Horatio Alger story,” recalls one admirer. Settling in Rappahannock with her husband, Richard Settle, they were true entrepreneurs before the word was fashionable. And the small businesses they built were all grounded in their service to the Rappahannock community.
Twenty-one years ago, when Ester was diagnosed with breast cancer, she did not feel sorry for herself but continued to think about others first. And she translated those kind, generous, selfless thoughts into action, real action.
Rappahannock’s annual Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, would not have happened without Ester Settle. In 1999, she — with help from others, she would be the first to acknowledge — made it happen. According to one knowledgeable participant, the amount of money she raised in this good cause was more than that raised in any other place, on a per capita basis, in the entire United States.
The signature purple ribbons of the Relay for Life can be spotted in business establishments all around the county this week, for the Relay takes place this weekend, May 15-16. We can think of no better way to honor the memory of Ester Settle by wearing a ribbon and participating in the walk.