Amabile matriarch dead at 96

She was businesswoman, and wife, mom to mayors

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMay 16, 2013 

Esther Amabile, a confidante to two Los Banos mayors, died Saturday in Los Banos, said her son. She was 96.

Michael Amabile, who served 12 years as Los Banos mayor, said his mother could ease tension and be a reassuring voice after a long day at City Hall.

"I think she was definitely the core of all of us," he said. "She gave me my confidence."

Amabile's husband, John, was a councilman for 16 years and a mayor for four. The couple owned España's Southwest Bar & Grill, which originally housed Los Banos founder Henry Miller's headquarters.

Born in Olinda in 1916, young Esther grew up working on the family farm. One of 10 children, she was most often picked to travel to cities with her father to deliver peaches, strawberries and Thompson grapes.

That work shaped Amabile's views on agriculture and business, said her son.

"She knew both sides, had that perspective, (and) taught me a lot," he said

Amabile moved to Los Banos to take a job in 1936 after graduating from beauty school.

Two years later, when the salon's owner died, she purchased the business.

"She was around 20 years old, living in a town with no relatives and managing her own business," Michael Amabile said.

John and Esther Amabile married in 1940.

Amabile kept the books for the family farm, according to her son. The couple purchased Canal Farm Inn in 1967 and España's -- then called España's Mexican Restaurant -- in 1974. Her husband died in 1983.

The Amabiles transformed Canal Farm Inn, which originally belonged to Henry Miller, into an Italian eatery. Eventually, Amabile and son Michael swapped the restaurants, putting España's into the old headquarters and later selling the other eatery.

Devoted to family

"She was very involved, but always in the background," Michael Amabile said, "because family was always No. 1 to her."

"Every decision I made, she knew about it," he said.

Yvonne Falasco, a friend for about 40 years, described Amabile as loyal and caring.

"She was very sharp, and a very genuine friend," Falasco said.

Falasco said the Amabiles were close friends, and the couples often visited each other.

Falasco recalled Amabile's devotion to husband and family.

"She was very, very interested in her family," Falasco said, "and they were interested in her."

Amabile is also survived by sons John and Stephen, and daughter Susan Mohr, as well as three daughters-in-law, 18 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

Amabile's brother, Arthur Selland, served as mayor of Fresno from his election in 1958 until his death in a car accident in 1963. The Selland Arena bears his name.

In a 2008 profile for the Enterprise, Amabile reminisced about her 72 years in town.

"I came to Los Banos as a stranger. I was welcomed by a friendly town and never left. It's been a good town to live in, even as it's grown from 3,000 to 35,000," she said. "Living here has been good for me and for my family."

A visitation is planned from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, with Rosary to follow at Whitehurst Funeral Chapel, 1840 Center Ave. A funeral Mass is scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph's Church, 1621 Center Ave.

España's will be closed Tuesday for the funeral service.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to nonprofit Westside Community Foundation, 1704 S. Sixth Street.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-656.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-656.

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