War bride, wife, grandmother, gutsy lady. Born Aug. 28, 1924, in Gorakhpur, India, died Oct. 20, 2012, in London, Ont., of kidney failure, aged 88.
Theresa was born in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to Scottish parents, William and Mary Wallace, who were working on building the extensive railway that crisscrosses India today.
She was a middle child, with an older brother, Irvine, and younger sister, Josephine.
While the family were happy in India, they had to return to Scotland when Theresa was 8 as her father was getting increasingly sick from the intense heat.
During the Second World War, everything changed for Theresa with good and bad results. She met a Canadian soldier in Scotland in 1943, fell in love and married him, but he was killed within 14 months of their marriage.
While this must have been devastating, if it hadn’t happened Theresa might not have made it to Canada, a country she loved immediately. Though she was a widow, she was also a Canadian war bride, entitled to immigrate after the war with a small pension from the government.
So, being the gutsy lady she was, at the ripe old age of 23, she got on a boat to Canada, where she knew very few people.
She just knew it was somewhere she needed to go, and it had to be better than Britain after the war.
On a whim, she picked London, Ont., as a place to settle and bought a little house with the pension money. Before long, she had a job as a secretary with the Catholic Diocese of London. It put her in contact with a network of Londoners, which was how she made most of her friends and also met my father, Bernard Peter Cramer.
Theresa and Ben tied the knot in April, 1950, and over the next 17 years grew their family to include seven children – David, Paula, Brian, Peter, Theresa, Bernadette and Christine. Eventually, 13 grandchildren were added.
Always an elegant lady, with her “platinum blond” hair worn in a hairband, Theresa was an excellent role model as a mother, mother-in-law and grandmother.
Always devoted to her family, she demonstrated her love through cooking. She was always preparing food for crowds – there were often nine people or more around her table – and her meals always had a gourmet flair. She was a bit of a food snob, so there were no casseroles or crockpot meals coming out of her kitchen.
It was at her cottage on the beach in Grand Bend, Ont., that Theresa was happiest. It was bought in 1959 as a place for her to spend summers with the kids while Dad worked in the city.
Life was simple in Grand Bend: enjoying the sun on the beach during the day and watching beautiful sunsets in the evening. In between, she would return to the cottage to cook massive meals.
Theresa got her final wish, to spend all of this summer at the cottage, returning to London in late September. After a short illness, she passed away peacefully at home with her family around her.
We will all miss her, but have only fond memories and joy at having known this feisty, strong-willed woman who was, in many ways, far ahead of her time.
Theresa Dietrich is Theresa’s daughter.