Ruth Theresia Olsson was born on the 27th April 1951, daughter of Maria and Erik Olsson. Tessa, as she was more commonly known, was the youngest of five siblings. Anne-Marie was born in 1940, Lars-Erik was born in 1942, Inga-Britt was born in 1944, Lennart was born in 1948. She lived in the countryside, in a small village named Hosjö, located outside the town of Falun, in the middle of Sweden.
Tessa's life was associated with animals since childhood. As her parents were farmers there were a lot of animals, including cows, horses, chickens and cats. Tessa used to enjoy spending time with her mother as she worked in the barn.
Tessa’s sister Inga-Britt remembers how at age two Tessa came home with a little kitten that became her own. She was named Rosa. Little Rosa followed Tessa wherever she went, but one day the kitten came home and was dirty and covered in mud. Tessa took the cat to the sink and soaped her. “I washed her face as well”, she told her mother. The cat didn’t look very happy after that but they stayed best friends and Rosa always wanted to be with her in school.
Tessa started school at age seven and went for nine years. At age eight or nine she began to ride on one of her family’s horses named Spike. It was a former military horse, but she was not scared and was determined to ride this big strong horse. At eleven years old, she began taking riding lessons in the village Sveden which was about 5 kilometers from her home. She went there on her bike almost every day after school.
As a child she liked athletics a lot and won a cross country skiing race amongst others. Running 60 meters was a specialty and she won that distance several times at school competitions. She was a stubborn little girl. The dog Zorro, given to her by her cousin Stina when Tessa was about twelve years immediately became her favorite pet. She also had rabbits and guinea pigs. Animals were always around her and were a part of her entire life.
After finishing school, Tessa worked at a publishing house but it was not for her. She searched for job at a stud farm outside Stockholm to work with horses. She got the job and was allowed to bring her own horse with her. However it wasn’t long before she went to England, where she worked as a galloping horse trainer. In England, Tessa became interested in judo and was very talented. She took several belts, including the black. Tessa met her first husband Mark Hooper during this time as he was teaching a judo course. In 1974 she traveled with Mark to Tortola. On Tortola, she worked first as a handyman at Treasure Isle Hotel but she returned to her real love of horses when she hitch hiked to Sea Cows Bay to see Ellis Thomas and began working with race horses. She was a talented jockey and won several races as the first female jockey in the BVI.
In 1975 Tessa attended a community meeting that was held in the Methodist Church in Road Town, in order to talk about animal welfare issues, a topic not previously discussed in the BVI. This meeting resulted in the formation of the BVI Humane Society and Tessa took on the role of the Animal Shelter Manager. This became her life’s work and with the assistance of many part-time employees and volunteers, Tessa continued her mission of caring for stray animals.
Tessa met and married Greg Gunter and they celebrated the birth of their daughter Jocelyn Maria Gunter.
When Jocelyn was one Tessa took her to meet her family in Sweden. Her family recalls how much they enjoyed this visit as Jocelyn ran around in the woods and fields and in all water puddles without shoes. However, both of them thought it was terribly cold in Sweden and had to borrow warm clothes.
Tessa loved her only daughter Jocelyn enormously, she brought her to the Animal Shelter as a baby, taught her to ride a horse at an early age and was very proud of her attending College in the United States.
In 1997 Vijay joined Tessa at the Animal Shelter as Assistant Manager and she was proud when she said that she trained him well. They worked as a team and Vijay is determined to continue in Tessa’s steps.
As Tessa’s health began to falter many people helped her in so many different ways and for that we say thank you. Her friends and all of us at the Animal Shelter miss Tessa so much, but her legacy will continue as we build a new Shelter and fly the Swedish flag on top!
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