by Chris Caldwell
Teresa Scheunert was wild and woolly, bubbling with mischief and always prepared to do something fun on a moment’s notice.
Teresa and I met as neighbours back in the ‘80s, living in the “beautiful” Baranov Trailer Park – yes, we were “trailer trash,” but you’ve gotta start somewhere!
Our years living next door to each other were almost a situation of conjoined households. Only 15 feet separated us, easy talking distance through the facing windows.
Rather than use the phone, Teresa would fling open a window and yell for me to do the same. We’d lean out our opposing windows and yap about what we should do today.
We camped and fished and canoed and horseback adventured – generally enjoying all Yukon experiences that one can with limited funds, a small canoe and a big old 4×4 pickup. Little Atlin, Jackson Lake, Little Fox and our “secret” fishing spot at Little Braeburn Lake were our habitual destinations.
Hot summer days were spent minding the kiddies and trying to keep cool. The trailer court wasn’t much more than a gravel parking lot and it cooked in the heat. We had no kiddie pool for the yard so made do by filling the trusty canoe – it held water just as well as it floated on it!
We would always collaborate on the big July summer birthday weekend as Teresa and my man Doug were born mere days apart. Winter fun was a succession of weird parties, one of which was our annual mid-winter toga party featuring a host of strange guests and bizarre attire made from bed sheets. Yes, there was much drinking and eating of grapes.
Our favorite card games were Shit and Spit (Teresa and I) or Canasta for four (Paul, Teresa, Doug and I) – Cape Breton rules. Many hours and as many bottles ‘o’ Dram were spent enjoying each other’s company.
We raised our kids together and made plans for someday sharing ownership in a Yukon wilderness touring lodge. We had a rare friendship closer than sisters that we knew could stand the test of time and the test of a business partnership.
Teresa and her family departed to Alberta in the ‘90s as she needed her nursing degree so our dream lodge would have an on-site nurse, but her ailing parents in Red Deer needed her assistance and our dreams went on hold.
We would still do out-of-the-blue visits like driving down to Red Deer on a long weekend for a game of Canasta, or “Surprise! We hopped on a plane to come to the Yukon for dinner!” then racing live Dungeness crabs on my kitchen floor.
Many years, many miles and many changes in work, lives and loves caused us to drift apart, but we always had the kind of friendship that transcended the time and distance.
Sometime around 2008, with her nursing degree and vast experience “in hand,” Teresa returned to the Yukon, allowing us to reconnect our friendship in person. With Teresa based in Watson Lake we only saw each other during the few times she was able to take a weekend off. I’d hoped she could get a permanent position in Whitehorse so we could hang out more often, but this plan never had a chance to come to be.
In June 2012 the Yukon lost one of our own. Teresa was a true Yukoner and had worked hard to make her way back to the land she loved so she could be a strong contributor to our Yukon community.
It is my hope that next week’s inquest will help Teresa’s family and loving friends cope with her untimely death, and will prevent Yukoners from suffering similar tragedy and loss in the future.
Chris Caldwell is a well-known local artist based in Whitehorse and was best friends with Teresa for over 30 years.