Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.

By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review

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Glen and Kay Tessmer, both 65

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Glen: I was born in Milwaukee, raised in Rothschild, and then moved to Wausau.

A: Kay: Wausau

Glen, what was your career before you retired?

Glen: I was a Systems Programmer for IBM Mainframe. I worked with operating systems, sub-system installations, and maintenance. It’s hard to explain to the layman. I started as a programmer and worked my way up. Originally, I was going to school to be an X-Ray Tech. I was an X-Ray Tech in the service and thought about pursuing Nuclear Medicine, but the more I thought about it, I realized I didn’t want to work with terminally ill people my whole life. I switched gears and took an aptitude test and it told me I should work with computers. I attended a tech school in Minneapolis and became a programmer until I worked up to systems.

Kay, what do you do for a living?

I am currently a massage therapist, but originally worked retail and grocery sales. My business is called Time for Me. I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I’m semi-retired now.

How did you decide to become a massage therapist?

As odd as it sounds, a psychic told me I had healing hands so I took it and ran with it. I am now a Reiki Master and was practicing Reiki in the back of grocery stores. I thought there had to be a better way, so I decided to become a Massage Therapist and I never imagined that’s what I’d be doing. I had never had a massage when I decided to do it, but I am successful at it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of your life?

Kay: Everything is memorable. You go to school – that’s memorable, you get married, have kids, have grandkids; it’s all memorable.

Glen: Memories and encounters change what’s happening in your life whether you know it or not. It’s hard to nail down one specific thing because everything ties together in life that allows you to make decisions good or bad that alter the path of your entire life.

What was one of the hardest moments of your life?

Kay: Life in general is hard and you learn what you can. If I had to pick one thing, it would be when Glen got sick. I watched him get worse and worse everyday with his liver failure and felt like I was waiting for him to die.

Can you expand on what his condition was?

Kay: Glen had liver failure.

Glen: Self-induced.

Kay: He had Hepatitis C; which wasn’t self-induced.

Glen: I found out I had Hep C and still didn’t quit drinking and I should have.

Kay: Everyday he got more sick and the only thing that would help was to receive a transplant, but it wasn’t guaranteed. I still worked everyday and sometimes I’d have to take him to Madison and come home to work. I worked throughout all of it and didn’t realize how stressed I was until he called me to say, “Do you think you could take me to Madison because they have a liver for me?” When I heard that, I was so excited and realized the weight had lifted.

How long did it take to receive a liver?

Kay: Six months. From the day he quit drinking to the day he got his liver was six months and six days. Actually, when they called with a liver, we drove to Madison and it turned out it wasn’t a viable liver. He was so sick and wasn’t leaving. His kidneys were failing and he said he could feel himself fading. While he was in the hospital in Madison, within four days, another liver came in.

How long ago did this happen?

Glen: Nine, almost 10 years ago this coming July. My illness wasn’t the hardest part of my life though. My hardest moment was my mother passing away. It was very traumatic for me. I don’t know why, but it was.

How long ago did she pass?

Kay: It was the year we got married; 1992. She passed 28 years ago.

Was it unexpected?

Glen: She was sick. She had breast cancer and thought they had control of it, but it came back with a vengeance and killed her. For some reason, personally, it was my mother’s death that affected me the most. My older brother was killed in Vietnam, but that was a whole different dynamic.

Kay: It was like your heart ripped out when your mother died.

Glen: It felt like that.

What were some of the worst ages in your life?

Kay: That would be when Glen was sick.

Glen: My hardest ages were my drinking years which were 16 to 56. I had a lot of fun, but I had a lot of bullshit too. It’s easy to forget the negatives, but drinking is a monster. It gets you every time.

What are hobbies you enjoy?

Kay: I enjoy gardening, cooking, walking, and reading. I used to cook for a lot of people and do dinner clubs. I am a master gardener and my girlfriend says we are competitive gardeners so if she has a big garden, I have to have a bigger garden. She always does better than me. When we moved into this house, there were no gardens and now there’s 35.

Have you always had a passion for gardening?

Kay: Yes, when I was a little kid, we had 80 acres and I don’t know if we weren’t allowed to garden in our own yard, but we used to garden across the road in the ditch. I like planting the seeds in the winter when it’s cold and watching them grow.

What are hobbies you enjoy, Glen?

Glen: I like fishing, playing video games, and motorcycling, We do a lot of traveling too.

What changes would you like to see in the community in the next five years?

Glen: I feel the city of Wausau could be a more vibrant community. Downtown used to be a neat place and they advertise to visit historic downtown Wausau, but they destroyed all the history downtown. I don’t know that there’s anything anyone can do about that anymore, but to me that was a serious detriment to the city. They tore down half of downtown to build the mall. All the history that was downtown was wiped out.

Kay: On the upside, there are nice things to do like Concerts on the Square, the balloon rally, and they’re creating bike paths.

What’s your favorite quote and why?

Kay: The actual quote that I have is a misquote, but it’s an easier way to say it. “The price of anything is the amount of life you pay for it.” The real quote is, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” That quote was said by Henry David Thoreau.

What made you choose that quote?

Kay: Everything has a price and nothing is free; whether it’s time, emotions, or something else.

Glen, what’s your favorite quote?

Glen: “Nobody gets out alive.” Today, there’s so many things like medicine and cosmetic surgery, and in the back of people’s minds they think they’re going to live forever and that’s not true.

What is a hidden talent of yours?

Glen: I know how to sew buttons on shirts.

Kay: Glen can fix anything. He’s mister fix it. He can rip apart a motorcycle and put it back together. He knows that a boat motor isn’t working even if it’s not in the water. My hidden talent is playing banjo. I’ve only been playing a year and a half. My uncle gave me my grandpa’s banjo and I didn’t know how to play so I started taking lessons and found I liked it; it’s happy music.

How did you two meet?

Kay: We dated in high school for a couple years and went our separate ways. 18 years later we had a chance meet up and that was that.

How long have you two been together?

Kay: 30 years

If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be?

Glen: Plant your corn early. That’s always good advice. Also, don’t take shit very seriously. Don’t take anything too seriously.

Kay: Don’t be afraid and look for the good in everything. Be sure to follow your heart, enjoy your life, and work hard.

What keeps you two in the area?

Glen: We are too lazy to move anywhere.

Kay: We have a lot of family and friends here. Although, it’s true what he said; if we moved, it would take me 20 years to get a garden how I want it.

Glen: We’ve thought about moving somewhere, but the more you think about it, it doesn’t matter where you are because you can always go to other places and appreciate them more. Why uproot yourself to go somewhere else? Are you going to be any happier? Probably not because you left all your friends, acquaintances, and family behind.

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