After a year's passing.
Teresa Tarnowski fulfilled every day her lifelong goal of being good -- warm, empathetic, and generous. Born in Gdansk, Poland on September 24, 1930 to Henryk Strasburger and Olga (née Dunin), she had an older brother, Henry. She fondly recalled her childhood in Warsaw and family summers in Granówko near Poznan.
The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 caused Teresa's family to flee the country. When her father was established as a minister in the Polish government in exile in London, Teresa, her mother and brother embarked for North America.
At the end of the war Teresa's family were reunited in England. Teresa was accepted at the prestigious Old Vic theater school and became a stage actress. She also worked as a model, a path opened by her extraordinary personal beauty.
Teresa's brother Henry introduced her to a college friend, Andrew Adam Tarnowski. They married in July 1953, and lived in London until emigrating to Rochester, NY. Andrew and Teresa eventually settled in New Canaan, where they raised three children, Andrea, Olga and Peter.
After years at home as a mother, Teresa took up work as both a volunteer and a paid employee. She taught exercise to children and adults, led the community United Way campaign, recorded many books as a reader for the blind, and – the job she always said she most relished – took on a paper route, the sole woman delivering the New York Times on the back roads of New Canaan in the wee hours. In the early 1980s, she joined the international relief organization Americares and for fifteen years travelled with medicines and supplies to nations such as Lebanon, Armenia, Haiti, Sudan, Pakistan, and Rwanda. Her understanding of the human costs of disaster allowed her to listen with an open heart.
Though she left Americares in her mid 60s, Teresa went on to yet another career, returning to school to earn an instructor's certificate in English as a second language. Teaching adults in programs throughout southern Connecticut until past the age of 80, she was devoted to her students. Her own experiences in the U.S. as both refugee and immigrant gave her insight into challenges her students faced.
In her last years, Teresa cared unflinchingly for her ill husband, taking on many burdens with independent spirit. When Andrew Tarnowski died in 2017, she declared herself grateful to have been able to do all she did.
Teresa died on September 15th, 2019 at Norwalk Hospital. Her children, grandchildren and beloved gardens miss her dearly.
Published in New Canaan Advertiser on Sep. 22, 2020.