Journal September 22, 1963
Esmé (aka Sister Kiesling-Debussy) and Chester Kiesling in their garden at Le Vesinet.
Esme & Chester— Well, the journal picks up abruptly with our beloved Esmé entertaining us missionary admirers and accepting, graciously and effectively, an assignment to integrate our newest convert into the branch. It assumes you already know rather a lot about these dear folks. Since you probably don’t, it’s time for another interpolation from memories and old pictures. As it turns out, we have lots of both.

Born Gaby Mansuelle around the turn of the 20th century, “Esméralda” (a stage name; in later life she called herself, mostly, “Marthe Kiesling-Debussy”) was a daughter of Claude Debussy’s sister, who married a Spaniard. She became an expert flamenco dancer and performer on castanets, dancing with the Folies Bergère for a while. It was in a traveling troupe that she met Chester Kiesling, several years her senior. They married and continued to perform on the road in Europe and Africa until the 1950s, when an accident disabled him. They retired to Le Vesinet, where he built her a cute little Chinese-style house which contrasts strongly with the palatial residences more typical of their neighborhood. Wonder how he got permission…

At some time in his Brooklyn, New York, youth, Chester was active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that was well in his past by the time he and Esmé met. One day in 1962, the missionaries came to call, and Esmé sent them away. Seeing their retreating forms through the window, Chester exclaimed, “Hey, I used to be one of them!” She ran out and retrieved them, and the rest is familiar history. She became an enthusiastic member of the Paris branch; he participated as his disabilities permitted.
1Period editions of the Larousse dictionary/encyclopedia illustrated their entries on “contortionists” with his photo.

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