Memorable Manitobans: Esther E. Goossen (1920-1997)
Born at Steinbach on 19 July 1920, third child of Elisabeth R. Friesen (1886-1964) and Johann D. “John” Goossen, she graduated from the Steinbach Collegiate (1938) then attended Bethel College at Newton, Kansas for a year. She registered at the University of Manitoba, majoring in Science, but interrupted her studies to spend a year teaching at a one-room school near Ashern. She was the only Mennonite student in the 1942 graduating class receiving Bachelor of Science in Home Economics degrees.
During the Second World War, she worked as a chemist analyzing gunpowder samples and testing small arms ammunition at Defence Industries Limited at Nitro, Quebec. She left this job in March 1944 to be a chemist at Graham's Dried Foods at Belleville, Ontario. From there she went to Canadian Breweries Limited at Toronto to do chemical analysis of beer, wort, and barley. After a stint with the Canadian Red Cross, she moved to the United States, spending two years as a research assistant at the Creighton University School of Medicine at Omaha, Nebraska. In 1949, she began postgraduate studies at the University of California (Berkeley), completing a doctoral degree in Biochemistry in 1954, becoming the first woman from Steinbach to receive a PhD.
In 1954, she married James C. “Jim” Brice (divorced May 1957) and did postdoctoral work in the Department of Pharmacology at Washington School of Medicine at St. Louis, Missouri. She became a naturalized US citizen in 1955 and worked briefly as a biochemist for the US Army Medical Nutrition Laboratory at Denver, Colorado before returning to California to work at the Radiological Defense Laboratory in San Francisco. On 24 November 1960, she married Toribio Joseph “Cas” Castanera (?-1971). They had no children. She worked for ten years as a research chemist at the University of California (Berkeley) and the California Department of Public Health.
After retirement, she indulged a love of travel. She died in California on 27 September 1997.
Marriage registration [Elisabeth Friesen, Johan D. Goossen], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Birth registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“John D. Goossen dies at Steinbach,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 March 1951, page 25.
“Esther Goossen (1920-1997): A Real Zest for Life” by Ralph Friesen, Mennonite Historian, Volume 48, Number 2, June 2022, pages 9-10.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
This page was prepared by Ralph Friesen and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 7 August 2022