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Esther Bryant Kyles and her husband, Pastor Edwin Kyles Jr., found joy in generosity — giving time and money to those in need. Together, they infused a mission of service into their small Renton ministry.
When students were returning to the classroom each fall, the couple organized a back-to-school drive and collected supplies such as pens, pencils and notebooks, to share with children in the community.
When their close friend Kathy Green was going through a divorce, Mrs. Kyles talked with her on the phone for hours. Pastor Kyles instinctively offered to help pay her mortgage.
“That showed me the type of heart they had, thinking about my needs,” Green said.
Pastor and Mrs. Kyles both died at Swedish Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Mrs. Kyle’s son, James Lowe. Mrs. Kyles died March 28 at age 64. Pastor Kyles died 10 days later at age 75.
The couple, who were married for 23 years, are among the hundreds of people in Washington state who have died after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Processing the couple’s deaths has been particularly painful for family, friends and members of their church, Shining Star Faith Ministries, because of social distancing restrictions that have altered how memorial services can be conducted, said Jacqualine Boles, a friend of the Kyles.
A service is planned but no date has been set.
Esther Bryant was born on Dec. 21, 1955, in Tacoma. She moved to Seattle as a young girl, joining four adoptive sisters and one adoptive brother, said Deborah Lockett, a longtime friend. A few years ago, Lockett traveled with Mrs. Kyles to meet her biological siblings in Maryland.
Her proudest joy, Lockett said, was watching her son grow and mature.
With a hearty laugh and a listening ear, Mrs. Kyles was a reliable source of comfort. “Whatever anybody needed, she was there,” said her sister, Susan Bryant, who lives in South Seattle.
Mrs. Kyles held CPR trainings, taught computer skills and made passengers feel welcomed as they boarded a vessel with Washington State Ferries, where she worked for 25 years in various roles. Her most recent job was as a ticket seller at Colman Dock.
Mutual friends introduced Pastor Kyles to Esther Bryant at a dinner party, and they married in 1996. A year later, they founded Shining Star Faith Ministries, affiliated with Church of God in Christ, the largest African American Pentecostal denomination in the country.
“They were kindhearted people who loved doing things for others,” Lowe said.
Pastor Kyles was born on March 13, 1945, in New Orleans, and was extremely proud of his Southern roots, Lockett said. He served in Vietnam for the U.S. Army and later worked for Boeing for more than 15 years.
Pastor Kyles had three children before his marriage to Mrs. Kyles: Ena, Samuel and Michaela.
After retiring from Boeing, Pastor Kyles became a full-time pastor, Lockett said, where his gentle and thoughtful nature provided a respite for members who were seeking spiritual counseling.
“Reaching out to people in the community, that’s what Esther and Edwin were all about,” Lockett said. “They were always there to give a lending hand.”