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Gerarda Teresa Contreras

October 3, 1928 ~ February 16, 2018 (age 89)
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Tere entered into her eternal gardens as a sunny Friday turned into a dusky evening.

Born in La Luz, Durango, Mexico, Tere was the eldest daughter of a Spanish Texan and Native American household. Despite her birth right as a Native American, Tere crossed the boarder as an immigrant. Alone, at the young age of 9, she left Northern Mexico for the US, seeking housework positions to help support her mother and siblings. As she got older her housework positions turned into migrant work. She met her late husband, Cruz, as a young woman. Together they had 9 children, many of which she would raise on her own. It was her dream to purchase a small farm in Wisconsin to make her ‘casita’ for her family. In the 60’s, her dream became a reality when she settled in Wautoma where she would live out the rest of her days.

Her own ancestral lineage belonged to the Native American tribes of the southwest US. Many of her spiritual beliefs and cultural practices stemmed from this side of her lineage, however, her background was diverse. Her western European ancestry was much more mixed due to the trade routes and histories of her peoples. Ethnically Tere was Spanish, Ashkenazi (Jewish), Moroccan, French, Italian, Swiss and North Asian along with Native American. Reminding us that the “Millennial” concept is nothing new.

In life, Tere was an avid gardener and loved all flowers, even the Dandelions – which were good for making homemade wine. She could be seen singing; dancing; ‘cocinando de memoria’, knitting, crocheting and making things for her family. Tere was deeply spiritual, a devout catholic, and a talented healer -carrying on her ancestral Native American traditions of massage and natural health remedies. Due to her natural talents, she was renown for her healing abilities and people would travel far and wide to find her. Her generosity was epitomized in her healing work, as she did not charge. She also provided blankets and food to new immigrants or anyone in need when they found their way to her – even though she did not have much herself. Her wealth of generosity stemmed from her industrious nature from gardening, preserving her homegrown foods and repurposing discarded garments for clothing and quilts.

Despite having no formal education, Tere was intelligent far beyond the opportunities she was given in life. On a laborers salary she purchased her first property in Texas and then realized her dream of purchasing a small farm in Wisconsin. Through Tere’s hard work ethic, persistence, determination, naturally astute nature and her unwavering resolve – she was a force of her own making. She made the most of life and carried on no matter the hardships endured. Due to her own experiences, she taught her children the value of education – an opportunity she was denied.

In her younger years Tere enjoyed the occasional nice liquor, a fine glass of wine and good clean humor through movies, jokes and life’s natural gems. In her later years, her smile was infectious. Tere was full of hugs and kisses, especially in her final stage of life. She was filled with a pure joy for the simple things, like watching Sleeping Beauty – calling the three fairies “mis tres angelitos”; listening to Pedro Infante’s mellow voice; admiring the ‘pajaritos’, flowers and forest animals; and finding connection in her caregivers, family, old friends and new friends alike.

She is preceded in death by many friends and family and is survived by nine children, 12 grandchildren, two great grandchildren, her dog Rocky, her loving caregivers and dear friends.

In her memory we ask that people honor the diversity of life and their own life histories, practicing kindness and compassion for others no matter the differences. She believed in the interconnectedness of all peoples, communities and nature. To those meeting Tere for the first time by reading this and are touched by her story – please light a candle in her memory; she would have been thrilled to know you. If Tere could, she would wave to all in greeting, like she loved to do with any passerby.  

Tere and her family would like to thank all the Agrace staff and volunteers that helped make her life’s last stage comfortable, dignified and one filled with kindness and compassion. A special thanks goes to Courtney and Angie from Agrace and Father Bart Timmerman of Madison’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish for their presence in her final hour. In addition, we thank the UW Hospital Doctors and staff, many of whom showed her great kindness and friendship – it meant the world to her.

Please join in the celebration of Teresa’s life and her many achievements: a strong woman that survived a life of great beauty and hardship. All are welcome in Tere’s final goodbye from this world and mortal send off. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11AM on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Wautoma. The family will greet relatives and friends from 10AM until the time of Mass at 11AM. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery, Wautoma. Memorials may be made to Agrace Hospice (www.agrace.org), Alzheimer’s Association (www.alzfdn.org), Kidney Foundation (www.kidney.org) or your favorite charity of choice in Tere’s name to honor her life and memory.

To Tere – we will miss you very much and are thankful to have known you as a friend, sister, daughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. May you rest in your garden; may you again meet those loved ones you lost; and those that you have prayed to for so many years, greeting them: "Why we've met before... Once upon a dream."


Donations may be made to:

Alzheimer's Association National Office
225 N. Michigan Ave., Fl. 17, Chicago IL 60601
Tel: 1-800-272-3900
Web: https://alz.org/

National Kidney Foundation, Inc.
30 East 33rd Street, New York NY 10016
Tel: 1-800-622-9010
Web: https://www.kidney.org/support


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