Friends, family recall Tensia Richard as 'a great mother'Tensia Richard was happy, thoughtful and willing to speak her mind. She had a good smile and was a great friend.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
Tensia Richard was happy, thoughtful and willing to speak her mind. She had a good smile and was a great friend.
Those are among the memories friends and relatives have of Tensia as they grieve the 22-year-old Cottage Grove woman’s death last week. But above all else, those relatives and former Park High School classmates said, Tensia should be remembered for the love she had for her two young sons — 3-year-old Chavelo and 7-month-old Ace.
“She’s an amazing person and a great mother,” said Shelby Hanson of Cottage Grove, a cousin to Tensia and among more than 50 people who gathered at a vigil Saturday, Oct. 27, across the street from the Gateway North strip mall where Tensia was shot by her estranged husband, Chevel Richard. The two had separated, and friends said Tensia was in the process of seeking a divorce when she was killed Thursday, Oct. 25, inside the Jimmy John’s restaurant.
“She was a very dedicated mother,” said Rochelle Oakland, a friend who recalled playing games at a baby shower for Tensia in February, ahead of baby Ace’s March birth. “Her boys were definitely her world.”
Clutching candles in Tensia’s favorite color purple, family and friends said they were shocked when they learned of her death. Two days later, they gathered in an open field to mourn and reminisce, at turns emotionally embracing one another and quietly trading stories about Tensia.
Tensia’s two brothers, Michael and Juan Martinez, said their family was overwhelmed by the support they received as they grieved the loss of their sister.
“Her death was very untimely,” Michael Martinez said, “and something that none of us — not even her — was expecting.”
Michael Martinez said their father, too emotional to speak at the vigil, had lost his only daughter, he and his brother lost their sister, people lost a dear friend and others lost the opportunity to meet “somebody who was bright, somebody who would love to make you laugh.”
“But above all the greatest influence that she has had … is and will be her two boys,” Michael Martinez said.
Juan Martinez said that with others’ help their family will keep going.
“We really do appreciate and are grateful for your thoughts and prayers,” he said before leading the group in prayer.
For many, Tensia’s death still was hard to fathom.
Katie Burger, a close friend and former Park classmate, had talked to Tensia hours before she died.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Burger said of the shooting. Tensia was living with her parents for about two weeks before her death, and Burger said she and Tensia had talked about where Tensia might find an apartment for her and her sons.
Burger and Shauna Pierce, another friend of Tensia’s, said she should be remembered for her dedication to her boys and her friendship.
She was “just a happy person,” Burger said.
“An amazing friend,” Pierce added.
Burger, Pierce and others untied several purple-colored helium balloons and released them into the sky, their necks craned as they watched the balloons float up in the air.
Tensia went to Park High School her sophomore, junior and senior year, friends said. She graduated in 2008, but kept in touch with her classmates.
Caitlin Thene of Cottage Grove graduated with Tensia and later were pregnant at the same time.
“The best thing about her is her mothering,” Thene said. “She just loves her kids more than anything. I admire her.”
Before transferring to Park, Tensia spent a year at Johnson High School in St. Paul. She became friends with Jonathan Stodola, and they kept in touch by sending text messages.
“She wanted to be happy,” Stodola said. “She wanted everyone to be happy so she’d go out of her way to make others happy.”
Tensia’s immediate family members mostly declined to talk publicly in the days after her death, but her brothers did express their loss at the vigil, taking turns standing on the back of a truck to address the crowd.
“We’re in sheer disbelief,” Michael Martinez said. “I know I woke up yesterday morning expecting to walk upstairs and see Tensia sitting in her one chair she’s always in and her two boys playing in the living room.”
“And then it hit me again — all over again.”