IF YOU’VE lived in Terrace for very long, the name Grandma Tess will ring a bell and evoke an image of a woman in purple, most notably a purple hat.
If you’re of a certain age, it will remind you of being younger and seeing her at school entertaining students with her dogs.
And motorists will remember Grandma Tess making her rounds on city streets in a large purple-coloured motorhome.
But March 25, Tess Brousseau, 87, also known by her maiden name and pen name as Tess Tessier, died from a stroke while visiting her daughter in Kaslo, B.C.
She decided to make a living will when her daughter was up here recently.
“My mom was a wise woman. She had enough friends pass on and she was going to doctors and was fighting dizziness,” said son local roofer Mike Brousseau about why she made up the living will.
“She said ‘I don’t want life support and if something does go wrong, let me go. I’ve had a good life. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do.’”
Her purple hat was her trademark.
“That was my mom. She loved purple. That was her colour. She always wanted to be eccentric,” said Brousseau.
When she would go to church, one member Brock Kozier, understood her, said Brousseau.
“He would put his arm out and she would take his arm and she’d be seated by him,” said Brousseau.
“She always wanted to be noticed as someone with character.”
And her outspoken, passionate nature took her many places in life.
Tessier was born and raised in Hudson Bay Junction, Saskatchewan in 1925.
When she was older, she and her dad got into an accident in their truck while driving through Oregon.
“They hit head-on and they survived,” said Brousseau, adding that his mom hit the windshield and suffered a gash to her face that left a scar.
“So my mom was a very beautiful girl but had a big, huge mark on her face. She said ‘I’m not sticking around here’ so she went up to Alaska and worked up there at Mount McKinley where my dad was in the construction business and that’s how they met.”
Tessier was the cook and Clarence Brousseau supplied the meat to her; they fell in love.
They married in 1946 and after four or five years, he wanted to move back home to Michigan but she said no.
“So he got her fired,” said Brousseau.
The couple moved back to Michigan and had seven children – six boys and one girl.
He wanted to raise the children out in the bush and while touring this area, he found property in Rosswood selling for $2 an acre and bought 60 acres.
The family moved to Rosswood in 1959.
In 1965, difficulties arose in their marriage because both Tessier and her husband had strong personalities and clashed.
She packed up all the children and moved to Terrace into a place on Haugland Ave. where the B and G grocery store was.
Her husband was working out of town and would stay at the Terrace Inn when he would come to town.
He tried to reconcile with her for about two years, but she had had enough, said Brousseau.
In 1967, they divorced and the boys went back to Michigan with their dad while their sister stayed here with Tessier, he said.
She started working for the Terrace Herald, taking photographs and also started writing books – the White Spirit Bear Book and Iceberg Tea are two –and became very involved in the community.
She wanted to protect the spirit bear and was always involved and was a “very colourful, eccentric, very lovely lady,” said Mike.
Known as Grandma Tess to her grandchildren, she would go to schools and talk to children about caring, sharing and loving one another and would tell the students to call her Grandma Tess, he said.
And she gradually became known by that name to others; she was also known as always having a dog or cat or two or three.
About 20 years ago, she was travelling around, writing her books and was in Grand Forks when her son Don died here.
She came up for the funeral and Mike asked her to stay and live with him and his family.
“We put an addition on the house and she moved into that, and it’s been 20 years,” said Brousseau.
It gave her a chance to be close to her grandchildren, he said.
Tessier was cremated according to her wishes and the family plans to hike to the top of an area mountain this summer and spread her ashes along with the ashes of two of her sons.
Closer to that time, the date will be announced and anyone who wishes to come along will be welcome, said Brousseau.
As for Tessier’s purple hat, Brousseau says he wouldn’t be keeping it as he’s not a purple hat person but believes his daughters will want it.
A Celebration of Life service for Grandma Tess will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 at the Terrace Pentecostal Church.
Those who attend will be asked to share any unique stories they have about Grandma Tess at the service.
There are plans to videotape the service so her young great grandchildren who don’t know her will get to know her through the stories of others.