LESTER, Marianne

From Islapedia
Left to Right: Elizabeth, Marianne, Herbert, holding Pomo the dog, and Betsy
Marianne and Betsy Lester by the Sheep Sheds, 1941
Elizabeth Edith “Betsy” Lester (5), and Mary Ann Miguel Lester (8), daughters of Mr. & Mrs. Herbert S. Lester on the porch of their San Miguel Island home.

LESTER, Marianne Miguel (1931-2004) [SS#572-40-1738], born February 5, 1931, the first of two daughters born to Herbert Steever Lester (1888-1942) and his wife, Elizabeth Sherman Lester (1891-1981), caretakers of San Miguel Island from 1929-1942. Marianne and her sister, Betsy, were home-schooled on the island by their mother in a school house delivered to the island by the Vails, their neighbors on Santa Rosa Island. Marianne was 12 when she, her mother and sister left the island to live in Santa Barbara.

Marianne Miguel Lester Stafford Butera died on October 18, 2004. She was 73 years old.

Marianne Miguel Lester (1931-2004) = [December 16, 1950] William Lennox Stafford (1915-2004)

  • 1. Jennifer Aileen Stafford (b. Feb. 1, 1955)
  • 2. Barbara Lennox Stafford Killian (b. 1958)

Marianne Miguel Lester (1931-2004) = Charles Butera [div. 1981]

San Miguel Island and other poems by Marianne Lester was privately published, with 500 copies designed and printed by Noel Young in Santa Barbara, August 1970. The title poem is nine stanzas:



The moon was shining on the bay Silver cold and bright When I sailed into that sheltered cove That bleak and solemn night

I walked upon the golden sand And heard the breakers roar For I loved the moonlight and the bay That belonged to that lovely shore

The wind blew softly, calmly Over the glistening shoals But the ceaseless cry of the breakers Sounded like mourning souls

Oh, let me remain on that lonely shore Until at last I die With the whispering winds my comforter With the sea gulls searching cry


The fields of my island were always beckoning The grass that lived with the cool winds And swayed to the music of it I felt that I should dance with it Sometimes I did. My heart also danced for joy In the beauty of the meadows.


When I was a child and I felt gay I stayed in the fields and meadows all day But when in occasional mood of thought The height of the mountains I always sought Looking across the sandy plains Up high I could hear melodious strains Soft and caressing upon my breast The mountains have always brought me rest


Oh, waves that roll around my island Beautiful, dark, mysterious green You hold wonders beneath your murmers Wonders I have never seen

As you fall upon the shoreline Soft, caressing as you come In my heart there is a beating As of a distant muffled drum

As I lie ad hear your sea song As I lie and watch your roll I can hear a similar sound Echoing within my soul


A place where I can lay my head And rest and think and dream and love No other place is there like this In other lands or up above

Its sheltering understanding walls That knew me best of all Where'er I am on land or sea I seem to hear their call


As I stood there still in the sunset And saw the glory slip away I watched the fog cover over The end of a perfect day

For its soft white mist had lowered From the regions up so high And touched the sun as it glowered And vanished from the sky

The delicate odor it showered On the sleeping earth below Gave me essence of maybe some sea scent Mixed with the soft moon glow

As I left the spot where I stood And opened the oaken door I looked back over the meadows But could see nothing more


Chords now play your loud refrain Blast strong on my window pane The song was wild and strange and true Because last night the cold wind blew

The morning came the air was chill The grass was rippling on the hill Each blade a key that spoke to me Of strange unthought of mystery

And now, as I walk amid the hills I hear soft quick enchanted trills Ah how sweet that warm, kind beat That brushes softly by my cheek

This evening as I sit alone Beside my hearth and watch the fire I hear again that haunting strain As in the chanting of a choir

I step outside and raise my eyes And as I do the wind comes down And takes my heart and blows It to the watching skies


The Master of this lonely land The one who loved it best of all He had to live, and he had to die For all we mortals have our fall

He knew each stream, rock, hill, and glade And they all knew him too And wherever or whenever he passed Soft breezes gently blew

For he was the good shepherd of this isle His flock was tender sheep Their love for him must have been Like all the others deep

He has gone but still remains On his designated home No more sorrows toil or care For this shepherd shall never roam


Now as I walk the streets of the city Mingling with all of every kind It's almost funny to see how all Of them try not to be left behind

Each wishes to be the center of attraction With selfish motives only in mind With this sort of people Why should I bind my love, my dreams, my hopes? When they belong to a land Where all is a song And every individual thing Doesn't try to be the king Where the flowers, the streams and the sea Say “Listen to all and you'll listen to me For aren't we all part of the very same heart The heart of San Miguel?”

In the News~

November 8, 1950 [Boston Globe]: “From Santa Barbara, Calif., comes the announcement by Mrs. Herbert S. Lester of the engagement of her daughter, Marianne Miguel, to William Lennox Stafford, son of Earle Stafford of Boston and Santa Barbara, and the late Mrs. Stafford. Both Miss Lester and her fiancee are students at the Santa Barbara College. Mr. Stafford served with the United States Army Air Force during World War II.”

December 20, 1950 [LAT]: “Marianne Miguel Lester bride in Channel City. The Princess of San Miguel Island is a bride. Lovely, blonde Marianne Miguel Lester became Mrs. William Lennox Stafford in Trinity Church, Santa Barbara, in a holiday season rite. But the young couple could not spend their honeymoon—as they wished—on the lonely, wind-raked isle off the coast where the bride lived as a child. Military Target Area. San Miguel is a military target area, so Arizona was substituted in their wedding trip plans. The bride was given in marriage by Capt. George Fiske Hammond, who had flown her to the island when she was a tot. Capt. Hammond and Capt. David Gray Jr. were almost the only callers at the bleak isle for 12 years, while Marianne, her sister Betsy and their parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Steevers Lester, lived there. Betsy was her sister's maid of honor at the wedding. The bridegroom is from Stockbridge, Ct. and the Channel City. There is a legend along the Santa Barbara coast that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was buried on the island some time after he discovered some 800 miles of California coastline. Greatest Thrill. Daydreaming of Señor Cabrillo, the Lester girls watched many a fishing craft—and warship, too—cut foamy paths through the Pacific within sight of their home. But their really exciting occasions were when the Hammonds or Grays landed their planes on the island. It will be a thrilling day for the Princess of San Miguel Island when she and her husband can visit her girlhood home. And you can be sure they are looking forward to the day.”

1951 [Oberlin Alumni Magazine]: “William Lennox Stafford, x, and Marianne Miguel Lester were married on December 16 in Santa Barbara, Calif. After leaving Oberlin, Mr. Stafford was in the Air Corps for seven years and later in the Army Engineers, serving in France and on Okinawa. He is now a junior at Santa Barbara College, where his wife is also a student.”

November 2, 2004 [SBNP]: “Butera, Marianne Lester Stafford, 73, of Santa Barbara; died Oct. 18; memorial service at 10 a.m. Friday at Trinity Episcopal Church; donations to church's memorial fund, to Santa Barbara Mental Health Association, 2017 Chapala St., Santa Barbara 93105, or to Channel Islands National Park, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, 93001; arrangements by McDermott-Crockett Mortuary.