Theresa Pay was born in 1921 in Saskatchewan. My mother called her Tessa. We called her Aunt Tess.
The story I heard was that Tessa was dating my father when she introduced him to her older sister. I am forever indebted to Aunt Tess.
I remember her showing me the tall vivid red flowers in her garden, when we visited her in Regina in the 1960s. She laughed and said the hippies kept stealing them. I was 10 or 11 years old. I didn’t know anything about poppies and heroin, but I liked her conspiratorial laugh, so I laughed too.
The small wood-framed house in which she and her husband Ron Bechard lived was decorated with all manner of cats. Tessa had painted cats on rocks, knitted cats, embroidered cats, drawn and painted cats, and had cat figurines and had a few real cats lounging around. Ron took us kids for a ride in his car. Tess had her cats and Ron his car. Tess was warm, frivolous, and creative.
Aunt Tess made a teddy bear for me. I've had it forever. The teddy bear’s mouth is an upside-down semi-circle. I look at it sometimes and wonder how it might have influenced my perspective and personality early in my life as a small child. Tess was a bit mercurial. Perhaps she made the teddy bear during a nadir.
After Ron passed away in 1996, Tess had the good fortune to meet up with and marry Forrest Howell a few years later. “Dusty”, as he was called, was a friend of my mother and father, and Tess, back in the 1940s. Tess and Dusty wintered in Arizona and spent the rest of the year in their beloved Saskatchewan until Dusty died in 2016.
Aunt Tess passed away yesterday, on January 31st. She was 100 years old.
Tessa died after being infected with COVID.