Katherine L. Esterly, M.D.
October 11, 1925 – December 9, 2014
Dr. Katherine L. “Kitty” Esterly, age 89, of Hockessin, DE, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, December 9, 2014.
Born in Norristown, PA on October 11, 1925, Kitty was the daughter of the late Harold D. Esterly and Inez M. Morgan Esterly. After completing her undergraduate degree at Ursinus College, she attended medical school at Temple University, graduating in 1951. Soon after, she relocated to Delaware to begin her internship and residency at the Delaware Hospital. Dr. Esterly became a practicing pediatrician in 1954 and would serve as an associate in pediatrics for the Children’s Bureau of Delaware from 1954 until 1968. During this time, she was a champion to countless adoptive and foster children. She was appointed as director of the organization in 1968 where her outstanding leadership skills and dedication to her profession were recognized by all.
In 1967, after the merger of Wilmington’s community hospitals, the Medical Center of Delaware was formed and a new department of pediatrics was created. Dr. Esterly quickly identified the need for the state of the art facility to include a skilled neonatologist, so she underwent additional training and in 1975 became the director of the neonatology division. Throughout the 1980’s, she worked tirelessly to expand the department which became a beacon of hope to thousands of families and their newborns.
Additionally, Dr. Esterly would serve as the chairman of the department of pediatrics at Christiana Care Health Services, as well as an attending neonatologist at AI duPont Hospital for Children and as a clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. She was also a consultant for St. Francis Hospital and for Delaware’s Child Development Watch program.
Deemed the “Mother of Delaware Neonatology” by the state’s leading newspapers, she was described by her colleagues as one who never took “no” for an answer. Dr. Esterly possessed a steel will in her approach to caring for her tiny patients and maintained the highest of standards for both herself and her fellow practitioners. Her warm personality, gentle hand and skilled communication style were an instant comfort to parents facing difficult times and it was her life’s mission to make sure that the best possible care was provided no matter what.
Dr. Esterly was a driving force behind the advancement of neonatal nurse practitioners and she helped create programs for schools in both Delaware and New Jersey. Her commitment to the medical community as a whole and her willingness to share her vast knowledge, led to her being appointed as the chair of the state’s Perinatal Board in 1995. A scholarship fund bearing her name and to which she personally contributed was created for students in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware.
Dr. Esterly’s professional legacy will help ensure that the exceptional care she provided will be preserved for countless Delaware families and future generations of pediatric caregivers for many years to come.
She is survived by her niece, Suzan F. Freitas (Manny) of Carmel, CA; great niece, Synthia F. Walden (Chad) of El Dorado Hills, CA; and great nephews, Bradley and Jake.
A memorial service will be held at 7 pm on Tuesday evening, December 16, 2014, at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, 719 Shipley Street (Shipley Street at Eighth Street), Wilmington, DE. Interment will be held privately in Christ Old Swedes Church, Swedesbury, PA.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to a children’s charity of the donor’s choice.