William Arthur Tessier
Uncle Bill was born in Fine, NY. Little is known of the school system there at that time, but Uncle Bill did say that he had to walk a long distance to the school, and only went as far as the 8th grade. He was the 8th child, and the second one to be born in the United States.
As a young man, he went to live in Florida before he was married. He owned a restaurant there. He loved to cook and for most of his life, that was his main occupation.
After a while he left Florida and came to Syracuse, N.Y. where he met and married Mary Alice Tily Smith. He opened a restaurant in Syracuse called Fern Lunch Restaurant. This restaurant was located in the factory area and he served breakfast and lunch only. Since most of the people who ate there were factory workers this arrangement was perfect.
Since Aunt Mary was not able to have children, they decided to adopt one. There was a St. Mary’s Children’s Home in Syracuse and they found themselves a little girl there. She was a year and a half old when they finally brought her home, and they named her Catherine Rosanne. She was the light of their life.
They owned a nice home in the city. When Rosanne was a little girl, sometimes Aunt Mary would take her down to the restaurant with her. Aunt Mary sometimes would help Uncle Bill by waiting on tables. Rosanne remembers especially enjoying watching her father flipping food in the air while he was cooking. Once a year the circus came to town and when they did they had to walk the elephants from the railroad station to the field where the show was to be. They had to go right by the restaurant. That was a big thrill for Rosanne to watch.
When the depression hit, things got financially tough and Uncle Bill sold the restaurant and went into the business of rooming houses and apartments. They rented their lovely home and moved into the rooming house they had bought. Eventually he purchased the old rectory of Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church and remodeled it into 9 studio apartments and one large 2 bedroom apartment for them to live in. This was a 3 story home and his apartment took up half of the first floor. Uncle Bill was a great carpenter and handy man and did most of the remodeling himself. He also was a painter, and painted houses for other people.
Rosanne was a teenager at this time. This rectory was right next door to the church and she attended the parochial school there. She married and moved into one of the apartments in this house. When her first children were small, Uncle Bill put up a picket fence around the back yard for an area for the kids to play in. It was a beautiful white fence. She and her husband finally moved into a home of their own a short distance away. They had nine children in all, so Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary had plenty of grandchildren to dote on.
Uncle Bill did many odd jobs painting, but one of the scariest jobs was when he took the job of painting the cross on the top of the huge Catholic Church next door to their house. That was hard for Aunt Mary and Rosanne to watch.
Uncle Bill, like his brothers, loved to hunt deer. During the hunting season, he would spend it with relatives in Tupper Lake, or in the area where my father hunted. Mostly it was his job to be the camp cook, but he did get to hunt also. One year he got a nice 10 point buck and had the head mounted and it hung in his living room. He also shot and killed a 350 pound bear one year. He had a bear rug made out of the skin and head and had it also in his living room. It was a little scary but real neat.
In the summer Uncle Bill would take his family on trips to see his brothers and sisters. He used to come to our place often when we lived in Lowville on the farm, and it was such a treat. Also, whenever there was a wedding or a big party, it was Uncle Bill’s job to make the punch and be the bartender. He was great at that. And they never missed the reunions.
I think he loved having his family visit him, even more than going to see them. He loved to cook great meals, and he would sit at the head of the table, carve the roast or fowl, and serve each one individually.
Rosanne said that she remembered evenings when she was young, of them sitting listening to the radio, to shows of Fibber McGee and Molly, and Charley McCarthy. Sometimes they would have waffles and maple syrup. They always had maple syrup that had been made by my father [Leo].
This story of Uncle Bill was written by Rosanne Bowhall Lahn, his daughter
A few years before Uncle Bill died, my husband Lee and I moved to Syracuse with our kids. Lee had gotten a job at a bank there. We bought a house about a mile from Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary. Since we were kind of strapped financially, I needed to make some money doing something that did not require me to leave our 3 kids. So Uncle Bill showed me how to really paint and paper correctly and I got to do over his apartments whenever anyone moved out. I used to paint and paper a lot on the farm but not Uncle Bill’s way. His way was “professional”. He also showed me the proper way to paint our house when we needed to do that job. He was a patient teacher and I could tell he loved teaching me. He was a hard worker but such a joy to spend time with.
He loved to have us come over and eat with them. Lee loved roast duck and Uncle Bill would always fix that for Lee. They had a big dining room with a huge table, and Aunt Mary set a great table. It was a real treat for us to have this great meal as often as we did.
Aunt Mary always had canaries. Then one year they got a parrot. This parrot could whistle and talk. His favorite expression was “shut the door Bill”. I have an idea that Aunt Mary used to say that quite often to Uncle Bill, and that is where the parrot picked that up.
Uncle Bill smoked all his life like most of his brothers. And like most of his brothers, he developed heart problems. He kept getting worse and finally had to go to the hospital. He died there 3 days later. Aunt Mary continued living there for a while until she finally had to go into a nursing home. She was there several years before she finally passed away.