A short but full life

Tuula Opheim made a big impact in a short time in Ashcroft.

Tuula came to work at The Journal in August or September of 2006. Former publisher Judy Stuart was trying to retire, but the company kept persuading her to stay.

Judy told me they’d finally found someone to take over from her – a sales rep at our Williams Lake Tribune office – and she really wanted to come here.

Nothing got Tuula down for very long, even though she had her own personal challenges. Perhaps it was because she was too busy helping others sort out their problems. She made friends here easily and volunteered her time with groups like Soups On and Communities in Bloom. She supported even more than that. She loved this town and its people.

Tuula came up with some great ideas to keep us all busy in the office. I remember a series of ads she worked on with Gerry Anderson at Ashcroft Work Wear to sell Crocs footwear, featuring silly take-offs on the word Croc. She never did use my contribution of Croc-a-Shih Tzu, but we both thought it was funny.

Wherever Tuula went, Chewy was right there with her. They were inseparable. If you wanted to ride with Tuula, you had to make room for Chewy.

We were driving back from a conference in Kelowna in 2008. First a quick stop at Tim Hortons for her coffee and we were on our way. Except for the part where she missed the turnoff and I got to see a wee bit of the Historic O’Keefe Ranch by mistake. And then we had to stop at the antique shop in Falkland. And then we had to stop at her sister’s house (and pick up Chewy) in Kamloops. There was always time for a little side trip.

Tuula could sell just about anything. “I’ll give ya a smokin’ hot deal,” I’d hear her tell customers on the phone – sort of an ironic choice of words, since she quit smoking in 2006 just before she came to The Journal.

She was offered another publisher’s job in Prince Rupert in 2009. I think she always intended to return to Ashcroft, maybe after she retired. She never sold her house, although I guess her family will now.

She has no more need for it. She is in a better place.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

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