One might argue that the luckiest day of Robert Goddard's life occurred in 1919 when he met Esther Christine Kisk, a secretary in Clark University's President's office. Born in Worcester in 1902, Esther was 20 years younger than the serious, shy Robert, but the age difference did not overshadow the fact that Robert and Esther shared a camaraderie which led to their marriage on June 21, 1924 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Worcester and to a life long partnership.
Robert and Esther moved into Maple Hill Farm after their marriage, and Esther set about to refurbish its somewhat neglected interior. She had the vigor of youth, and early on, Esther began to foster Robert's social role within the Clark community. Together they attended picnics, faculty parties. Esther said "The younger faculty people were casual and Bob liked them. He began to mix more easily. "Esther began to understand her husband's pursuit of his dream of achieving high altitudes," and after Robert's father Nahum's death in September, 1928, she was totally committed to "an uncertain life poised at the edge of achievement." Increasingly, Robert turned to Esther for support.
Esther deciphered his notes, which she alone could read, photographed his work, stamped out the brush fires that were the results of his launchings, kept his account books, sewed the parachutes he used in his launchings and never wavered in her life long relationship of support.
In 1929 , the Goddards, supported by funds from the Guggenheim Foundation and the backing of Charles Lindbergh, moved to Mescalero Ranch in Roswell, New Mexico, to continue Goddard's work. In letters home, Esther described the location as "High Lonesome", but Roswell offered Goddard space and privacy to continue his work. It also provided warm, dry air, beneficial for his chronic respiratory problems. Esther wrote of the early Roswell years, "During the fruitful years of full time experimentation, financed by the Guggenhiem family, he was an extremely happy man, doing what he most wanted to do, with adequate funds in optimum surroundings." Throughout the Roswell years, Esther continued her role of support for Robert and his work. She became the emissary for Goddard and his crews and visited the town of Roswell for supplies and to establish social contact. She joined the Roswell Music Association, the Women's Club, the Shakespeare Club, and founded a book club that is still in existence.
Gradually Esther coaxed Robert into joining some of the activities so that he could relax from his all consuming work and also could be seem as a normal citizen of Roswell, "just as plain at blueberry pie" In 1932, the Depression dealt a blow to the Guggenheim Foundation, and Goddard's funding was temporarily rescinded. Robert and Esther returned to Maple Hill and Robert resumed his work in the Physics Department at Clark University. After two years in Worcester, Goddard's health was deteriorating and his doctor strongly suggested a return to Mescalero Ranch in Roswell. The Guggenheim Foundation had renewed its support which allowed Goddard to make the move. There the Goddards were visited by Charles and Anne Lindbergh who flew into Roswell on their way to the west coast. Esther noted later, "We had no beds and scarcely chairs to offer them, since we had just moved back, but we were not permitted to feel embarrassed."Throughout the 1930's the Goddards experienced successes and failures in Roswell, waiting each year to find out if the Guggenheim Foundation would continue to fund their efforts. Esther continued to support Robert and to provide a warm and friendly home for him and hospitality for out of town visitors like the Lindberghs, the Guggenheims and officials from the Army and Navy and others who were there to see Goddard's, as he named his rocket.
Esther's goal in Roswell was to provide "Bob" as he was known with a sense of normality. They had a group of friends whose activities, like singing and playing bridge, continued to encourage the shy Robert to participate in activities that would give him some diversion from his near obsession with rocketry. In August, 1938, Esther convinced Robert that a vacation was in order, and they sailed to France on the Normandie.
France and Switzerland Robert and Esther were typical tourists and Robert's health seemed to improve.
Back in Roswell Robert and Esther continued as a team. When Lieutenant Homer A. Boushey, an Army Air Corps pilot and a strong supporter of Goddard's work, visited the Goddards at Mescalero in 1940 he remembered his impressions of Esther. "There had been something of a legend about Esther Goddard being a tigress, fierce to protect her husband's secrecy, but I didn't find her this way. The secrecy seemed to be his idea and much as hers, although I recall that in answer to some of my questions, there would be a little pause, and the doctor would look at her, and then he would go on to answer." Throughout the 30's Esther supported Robert in his continued experimentation on liquid fueled rocketry and in his frustrating attempts to interest the Navy Department in the military potential of rocketry. In the fall of 1941, Esther noticed a growing huskiness in her husband's voice. It was a precursor of the throat cancer that would kill him in 1945.
After America entered World War II, the military became interested in this military potential, and in 1942 Goddard was invited by the Navy Department to move to Annapolis, Maryland, where he set up his machine shop and testing stands.
Robert and Esther settled at Tydings on the Bay, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Esther again created a warm home, in the roomy gray stucco house. The sounds of America's involvement in the European war could be heard as foghorns sounded from the freighters and hospital ships setting out from Baltimore harbor. Esther enrolled at John Hopkins University in Baltimore to pursue her studies that had been interrupted when she left Bates College to marry. Her husband heartily approved, and she brought her mother in from Worcester to care for Robert and the house in her absence. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree with honors, but knowing Robert was seriously ill, she did not go to the commencement exercises.
Robert Goddard died in Baltimore on August 10, 1945, and was buried on August 14 in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, the day the Japanese signed the surrender on the USS Missouri, ending WWII.
For Esther life after Goddard's death continued along a path dedicated to her husband's memory. She moved into the house on Tallawanda Drive, and gathered her family around her. She had an annex built at the rear of house for her mother, and moved an elderly aunt into the upstairs bedroom. Her purpose now was to make certain her husband's work was not forgotten and that he received the honor and credit he deserved. She devoted the first years to meticulously sorting out Robert's papers. Others had been pirating Goddard's inventions, and she set out to get the patent rights to insure legal recognition for his work. She worked with Charles Hawley, a Worcester patent attorney, and in all, Goddard received 214 patents, 131 secured posthumously through Esther's efforts.
Esther continued to promote Goddard's accomplishments. In 1965 she donated Robert's Magnesium Powder Experiment Box to the National Air and Space Museum. This artifact developed in 1916 is the oldest space oriented artifact in the National Air and Space Museum and possibly the world.
Source of information: "This High Man." Milton Lehman 1965