|Birth:||10 February 1914|
Sibley, Illinois, USA
|Death:||2 February 2021|
Elon, North Carolina, USA
|Age:||106 years, 358 days|
Kernodle was born on 10 February 1914 in Sibley, Illinois, to Aurell and Wilhelmina Cole. She was a descendant of clergyman James O’Kelly. Kernodle spent her first years in Chicago before moving to Durham, North Carolina at the age of seven. She received a B.A. degree from Elon College in 1936, where she majored in English and French. She also studied piano, voice, and public school music.
While at Elon College, Kernodle met and married Dr. John Robert Kernodle, Sr. After World War II, the couple moved to Burlington, North Carolina, where he established his medical practice and where they raised two children, John Robert, Jr. and Ann Cole. Esther spent ten years teaching English, French, and public school music. In addition, she pursued graduate study in religion at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill. She was a long-time member of First Christian United Church of Christ in Burlington, North Carolina, where she taught Sunday School for over 50 years.
In 1996, Kernodle moved to Elon, North Carolina. She continued to be involved with Elon College; she was a member of the university’s Aesculus Society, which honors donors who have given more than $100,000 to Elon over their lifetime, and a student leadership scholarship has established there in her and her husband's name. In March 2018, at the age of 104, Kernodle attended United Church of Christ services to welcome President Connie Ledoux Book as the ninth president and first woman to lead the university.
Kernodle died from COVID-19 on 2 February 2021 at the age of 106 years, 358 days, making her one of the oldest victims of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of her death, she had three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.