By Desrae Saacks, Tali Feinberg and Lindy Diamond
I met Tessa Epstein in January 2000 when I started working at the Chronicle in the capacity of layout artist. Little did I suspect back then that I would spend such a large part of my adult life in her company.
Tessa has been the secretary at the CJC for the past thirty-one years, and retired last month due to ill health. It was the first time she had taken sick leave in all the years she had worked here. Over the years, Tessa saw my children grow up from toddlers to adults, was there through the loss of my parents and parents-in-law; and I for her when she became a mother-in-law and then a granny; and then a long-distance mother/mil/granny. We mourned together the loss of our two former colleagues, Anita Shenker and Irma Chait.
Tessa has been the heartbeat of the office — the one who knew how everything worked, who everyone was, and what needed to be done at any given time. Anyone who has had any dealings with the Chronicle in the last 31 years most likely has spoken to Tessa. From the booking of space, gathering (and chasing up) of content, invoicing etc. Chronic ads and family announcements were her department too, and her sympathetic commiserations when taking bereavement announcements earned her the nickname of Sybil — a reference to Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, whose sympathetic “I know, I know…” when on the telephone were echoed years later by our own Tessa Epstein.
Tali Feinberg (CJC editor 2011 — 2014) writes, “Tessa welcomed me with such warmth when I joined the Chronicle. To me she has always symbolised sunshine and warmth. Even though we were from different generations, we got along easily. She was always there to lend an ear, a shoulder to cry on, advice or fascinating stories from years gone by.
“The name Tessa means ‘she who gathers’ and that’s who Tessa was to this community. She was indeed the person who gathered the information, connections, milestones, highs and lows that make up a community. And she did it all with warmth and a magnificent smile, in her calm and careful way.
“The first to wish me Mazeltov, to offer words of support, or share recipes or book recommendations, she was always genuinely happy for others when they had something to celebrate. She went from being a colleague to a friend, and a mother figure in my life who was a constant presence, even when we didn’t talk for a while.”
Lindy Diamond (CJC editor 2015 — 2021) writes from England, “‘Now listen nicely…’ is how Tessa starts every serious dialogue between us.
“Whenever I think of her it’s as the office’s mother hen — concerned and caring for everyone else. Always available with a kind word, an ear to lend or a cracker and cheese if I was peckish.
“Tessa taught me the true meaning and value of institutional knowledge. Her skills in Excel may have been a bit rusty, but she could tell me how things had been done in the Chronicle in any past year that she had been around, and whether it had worked or not.
“Tessa was a big part of why I could think creatively and not worry about the minutia. Because I had her to tell me what had come before and to her mind, what needed to come next.
“I remember when I first arrived and suggested a total spring clean of the office. “Tess?! Why do we still have this?” I would ask, holding up some offensively dusty item. She would smile and allow me to throw it out, or quickly squirrel the item away when my back was turned. The things we kept in those cupboards…
“‘Now listen nicely’ No one tells you when you move away how much you’ll miss those who you care about, but aren’t in the habit of phoning or messaging. Tess. I do really miss you.”
Tessa has always been the epitome of dedication, working at the Chronicle until the day she was admitted to hospital. She did it all through many changes — from new offices to new editors to working from home in the pandemic. As the face of the Chronicle she never wavered in her calm, reliable presence.
Tessa is sorely missed at the Chronicle. We send our love and best wishes to her and her family.
Tessa passed away on 7 September. She is sorely missed by all at the CJC and the Samson Centre. Our thoughts and condolences are with her family.
• Published in the September 2022 Rosh Hashanah Digital Edition – Click here to read it.
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