This past week a mother and son died. On the same day. In two different cities 50 miles apart.
Vicky Tehan and her son Basil.
The Tehan story is an All American story. About an All American family.
Vicky died at the age of 92. Her son Basil, 67.
Vicky married Louis Tehan in 1941 in Utica, NY. They were the children of immigrants. Their parents had come to this country from Syria.
Louis and Vicky were a typical first generation immigrant family. Full of desire for the future. Wanting everything for their children. Hard working. Seeking the American dream.
With one difference. They succeeded! They reached for the stars and made it!
I first met Louis and Vicky when I was very young. Sometime during World War II.
My parents had bought a two family home on James Street in Utica. Their first tenants were Joe and Ann Torchia. The Tehans and Torchias were good friends. Eventually my parents became good friends with the Tehans, also.
I remember visitng the Tehan home with my mother. The home was located on Square Street. It was a store front with an apartment in the back or upstairs.
The store front was filled with brown card board boxes filled with all types of candy.
At that time, Louis made a living by selling candy door to door. I recall him selling Hershey chocolate candy bars that way. A bar at a time.
Eventually the business grew. Louis and Vicky opened a new and bigger store on the corner of James and Conkling Streets. Again a storefront. With an apartment upstairs.
The time frame is around the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The store was bigger. And the Tehans were now selling all kinds of products. The candy had given birth to air conditioners, dishes and the like. Every thing but clothes.
It was the beginning of discount stores. And the Tehans were there at the forefront of the industry.
The whole family worked! Louis and Vicky had 6 children. They were all over the place helping out.
Success continued to follow Louis and Vicky. Success for them resulted from hard work. And they must have worked real hard! Whatever they did, proved successful!
They opened a new and bigger store. Real big! In a shopping plaza on Mohawk Street. It was a catalogue store. Catalogue stores were a new concept for selling.
A customer looked up the item he wanted in a catalogue. Got the number. Gave it to an employee. And the product was delivered to you from the back room. A revolutionary selling concept at the time!
With the advent of the big catalogue store on Mohawk Street, the Tehan working crew consisted of more than Louis and Vicky and the 6 kids. They now were hiring people! Employees!
Louis and Vicky were precursors. They got into a new field and succeeded big time!
Louis died in 1974. A good man gone!
Vicky continued in the business world after Louis passed on.
She and the family built their own shopping plaza on Commercial Drive in New Hartford. A big one! Besides a Tehan store, it had everything else a huge commercial plaza has on the property.
And Vicky was the Chairman of the Board! Chairperson, that is!
Vicky was the ultimate woman! Active from day one in the business. From that little store front on Square Street to the big commercial plaza in New Hartford. She worked and raised a family at the same time. She did 50 years ago what women are trying to accomplish today. Just as the Tehan business was a precursor, Vicky was also.
Vicky was a soft spoken humble woman who aged gracefully. She was a lady! In and out of business.
Louis and Vicky had to be proud of their family. Their 6 children gave them 16 grandchildren, who in turn have thus far produced 10 great grandchildren. Louis would have been proud of the seed of his seed. And Vicky was always proud of the whole family!
I have not intentionally neglected their son Basil. Vicky and Basil’s deaths on the same day in separate communities was mere happens chance. Perhaps God wanted them to walk into Heaven together to greet Louis.
Basil was a part of that American dream I mentioned earlier. His parents sent him off to college. Basil ended up obtaining a Doctorate in physics from Clarkson University. He spent most of his adult life teaching in local colleges.
Basil was a humble individual, also. The fruit does not fall far from the tree.
Basil and I were neighbors in Utica. We both lived near the local community college campus where I walked every day during the warm weather. I had to pass Basil’s home on my way to the campus. Basil was generally outside puttering around. And he always had a warm smile and a wave of his hand as I passed by.
How does the saying go? We were better to have known them!
Rest in peace Vicky and Basil.