Life lessons from a late teacher

Bob Teskey was “a good listener and companion.” This week, his wife Barb pays tribute to his legacy by walking in the Relay for Life. Her lesson: live your dreams.

Originally from Sarnia, retired teacher’s assistant Barb Teskey, 58, and her family are participating as team Family Ties in Grand Bend’s 12 hour Relay for Life at Klondyke Sports Park July 10 and 11. The survivor lap starts at 7 p.m.
Teskey’s husband Bob was a teacher for 30 years, and was six months away from retiring from Cathcart Public School when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Two weeks later, doctors had bad news: he had lung cancer, and it had already spread to his bones. Despite radiation on his hip, Barb and Bob received disheartening news on February 14, 2005: Bob would have to move into palliative care. Bob Teskey died two months later aged 54. He left behind two sons, and an expectant daughter-in-law.

As told to Casey Lessard
Photos courtesy Barb Teskey

Bob was a good companion. I miss his presence. I used to go out and walk all the time and knew that he was there waiting for me. Coming home at night and knowing that he’s not here to greet me and be here for me – you just have to cope. You have to go on.

Bob and I were born and raised in London, and we went to the same high school. There were a bunch of us who hung out in a coffee shop after high school, and we knew each other and had been friends for a long time.
We were very good friends, so it was difficult to make that leap into romance. It just happened. Then we decided that we would be together. He had a wonderful sense of humour, and I think that’s why I was attracted to him. We had a lot of the same interests. Our favourite thing to do in Sarnia was walk in Canatara Park, and we spent a lot of time at a cottage in Kettle Point until the boys were 16. We always loved being at the beach and having a cottage. When he passed away, I knew a lake setting was where he would have loved to have been.

With the pneumonia, we just assumed he would be okay. He was on medication for a couple weeks and it wasn’t going away. He went in for another x-ray and they saw a mass on his lung. In the original x-ray, it wasn’t there. You’re in a state of shock, and that point we weren’t aware of how aggressive it was. But it became very apparent that it was moving very quickly. It was Valentine’s Day that he had to go into palliative care. The cancer left him paralyzed from the waist down from that point.
It doesn’t even give you enough time to think and to process it. You’re also in some denial that this is meaning that it’s the end. We hadn’t really wanted to believe it.
He never once complained. He told me, “Barb, there are worse things with parents losing children to it.” He didn’t seem frightened. He didn’t say, Why me? He was very brave through the whole thing.
His battle with cancer was very short. It was such an aggressive cancer, and for the last two months of his life, I lived in palliative care with him. We had all the comforts we needed, but it was a difficult time, especially at the end when he lost consciousness. The last few days were very tough, just sitting beside him.
He was so looking forward to retiring and pursuing other interests, such as traveling. In an instant, your life is changed.
When he was in palliative care, he was quite ill when I found out that our son and daughter-in-law were going to have our first grandchild, so I very much miss that he didn’t get a chance to meet his grandchildren. That’s one of the toughest things because we were looking forward to being grandparents. I believe he is with us and knows that he has a lovely granddaughter and grandson.

He asked my daughter-in-law to make up photo boards for the funeral home, so she made them up really quickly so we could have them. We had the pictures in his room so that when people came in, we would talk about all the different pictures. It made it easier because we would talk about old memories. We didn’t really talk about his passing that much, other than he and I personally. We would just talk happy memories. A friend taped an interview with him for many hours, which I haven’t yet been able to listen to. He tells me he hasn’t yet, either.
Because he was a Grade 8 teacher and young – he was only 54 when he died – of course, the children were devastated. He received all kinds of wonderful messages from the kids and parents.
This was the first time my children had to go to a funeral, and it had to be their father. They were both overwhelmed by the number of people who were there. It was very difficult for them.

Because this happened so quickly, we didn’t have time to prepare. If there’s anything you want to do in life, don’t put it off. You don’t know when your day is going to come.
I was nervous I wouldn’t have a travel partner, but people always call. I basically say yes to everything people offer. Wherever they want to go, I’ll go. It’s very important to be happy and live your dreams before anything happens to you. Do what you want to do.
We shared wonderful times together. I know he would have loved being up here at the water with me. It’s very difficult that he’s not able to share this with me.

Barb recommends everyone should attend or participate in a Relay for Life. To donate, visit